FROM June 24th, 2022
As the Kigali Summit took place yesterday to urgently increase investments and commitments critical to ending malaria and neglected tropical diseases, I am calling on all world leaders to unlock the potential of smart partnerships to conquer malaria, reduce the burden of NTD's and build a healthier better world for us all. Incredible progress over the last two decades proves that ending malaria and NTDs is an achievable goal. Investment in the fight through the Global Fund has led to 10.6 million lives saved and prevented 1.7 billion malaria cases. To date, 46 countries have eliminated at least one NTD and 600 million people no longer require treatment for NTDs. Yet, we still need renewed investments made by Presidents, Prime Ministers, CEOs, philanthropists, scientific experts, global influencers and community champions to save more lives, drive economic growth and support health systems to detect and respond to emerging diseases in a timely manner. We are currently at a crucial time in the fight against malaria. I acknowledge the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), a groundbreaking coalition of African Union Heads of State and Government, working towards eliminating malaria by 2030 with various partners in their advocacy for data-driven decision-making, transparency, accountability and action on malaria, child and maternal health, NTDs and nutrition. Countries around the world must pledge financial support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to help ensure that the world stays on track to end all three epidemics within a generation, to build strong national health systems to better respond to emerging pandemics. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa has witnessed time and time again, how malaria and NTDs continue to multiply in areas of poverty, afflicting the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. We cannot allow half the world to continue to suffer from preventable and treatable diseases. I am thrilled to echo Dr Tedros’ announcement regarding the launch of my dear sister and former mentors namesake Dr Mwele Malecela Mentorship Programme to develop women leaders to beat NTDs. Dr Malecela was the Director of the WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, and an inspirational figure to all in global health. I recall her mentorship alongside Global Water in 2020, which aided WBFA in our uptake of WASH. I continue on in her memory, through my advocacy with the The End Fund, while re-affirming my commitment to sustainable, inclusive and collaborative action. The Kigali Summit is a historic opportunity to End Malaria and Beat NTDs. Let us make history and be a part of the generation that ends malaria for good. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa and I endorse the Kigali Declaration and will continue to advocate for mobilising a fully resourced Global Fund Replenishment to End Malaria. We must take action now - zero malaria starts with us all!
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FROM June 7th, 2022
Food safety is everyone's business, let's create lasting change! On World Food Safety Day, I am proud to join SDG 2030 to discuss how safer food, leads to better health and how we can collectively achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Amplifying and mobilising action to prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks and improve human health is essential to public health. Food safety and security are two complementing elements of our sustainable future, and necessary for an equitable world. As we become increasingly interconnected, glocal citizens need to choose safe foods and #foodsafety for our one people and our only one planet. Women and girls are vulnerable at all levels of food safety, from availability, access, utilisation and stability. They suffer the most from macro- and micronutrient deficiencies, especially during the reproductive years. Through my Wellbeing Foundation Africa Mamacare360 program and Adolescents PSHE WASH program, we provide the knowledge mothers, adolescents, children and families need to alter food consumption for improved nutrition, as we are what we eat. From engaging with families and involving children in food safety activities to promote safe food handling and WASH, following the World Health Organization Five Keys to Safer Food Advocating, to advocating for low-carbon and resource-efficient sustainable food and farming systems to nurture the health of our people and our planet, food safety is everyone's business, at home, in workplaces, at schools, markets, and for food vendors. Thank you, SDG 2030, for having me today. WBFA and I continue to actively work toward achieving the SDG 2030 goals, at home in Nigeria, and through advocacy across the globe, as we must preserve people's opportunities to live in dignity and prosperity across generations.
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FROM June 3rd, 2022
On United Nations Global Day of Parents, I am celebrating and appreciating all the parents throughout the world, and emphasising the importance of healthy families to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Parents play the most critical role in the rearing of a child, from nurture to protection. A lifelong role as anchors of the family, and the foundation of communities and social progress, health and wellbeing practices often stem from parents and the environment they construct. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa aims to implement, support and motivate the sustained changes needed to improve family health in Nigeria. Our WBFA midwives, through our Mamacare360 program, better position our mothers to promote quality safe parenting for the full and harmonious development of their child. Our Sanitation Angels are on a mission to minimise any preventable negative health consequences, by being the community leaders of sanitation and hygiene, advocating for the right to WASH as a family habit and activity. Through our grassroots collective action, we are providing the tools parents need to catalyse and address their health and wellbeing needs, empowering them to be the primary model, educator, and influencer of family health outcomes, benefiting future generations to come. It is necessary we enhance awareness amongst decision-makers and the public of the effective ways of meeting family needs to further invest in one nation, one health.
FROM May 31st, 2022
Unfortunately for global health outcomes, tobacco product use begins and is primarily established during adolescent years. Today, on World No Tobacco Day, I invite you to join me in amplifying the World Health Organization commitment to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use in all forms, second-hand smoke exposure, alongside this years 2022 global campaign ‘Tobacco: Threat to our environment’. Tobacco has major implications for the health and wellbeing of smokers, non-smokers, and our environment. The industry’s effort to youthfully modernise tobacco use, to the greenwash marketing of its reputation by falsely advertising as environmentally friendly, is detrimental to our rising generation. Infants exposed in-utero to tobacco smoke toxins, through maternal smoking or maternal exposure to second-hand smoke, frequently experience reduced lung growth and function - with an estimated 60,000 children dying before the age of 5. Teenagers exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk of the onset and exacerbation of asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis, and frequent lower respiratory infections. Those who live on into adulthood continue to suffer the health consequences of exposure. At my Wellbeing Foundation Africa, we prioritise facilitating ‘taboo’ conversations between our frontline staff, midwives and adolescents early on during our Adolescent PSHE WASH program, creating inclusive safe spaces where they are empowered to build their autonomy to address topics like tobacco and substance abuse with their peers, families and communities - extending the effects and learnings beyond the program. WBFA responds to the tobacco epidemic through not only education and advocacy, but by the full organisational implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and by adopting the MPOWER measures in our own policy development. Lung and environmental health is essential to achieving overall health and wellbeing. In order to achieve the SDG targets of a one-third reduction in NCD premature mortality, and to protect the planet from degradation by 2030, tobacco control and elimination must be prioritised by all.
FROM May 27th, 2022
Today on Children’s Day 2022 I reimagine a better future for every child, because from birth to adulthood, #everychildcounts. No child should ever be left behind. For 15 years, the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) were a guiding force on many issues affecting the lives of children, young people and their families. During this time, I established Alaafia in 2004, a Wellbeing Foundation Africa initiative which promoted and positively impacted the health and wellbeing of women and children, families and communities in Kwara State. Guided to engender and empower key strategies and solutions towards achieving progress in the key measurable indices set out by the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, we made tremendous progress in reducing preventable child deaths, getting more children into schools, creating accessible spaces for children's growth and enjoyment such as the Kwara children’s playground and childhood disability donations, while ensuring more families had access to safe water and nutrition education, earning the Unicef accolade of a state #FitForAChild in 2010. Today, the WBFA's nationwide program interventions and initiatives continue to be guided by the targets of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Working with our partner, Nutrition International in Sokoto and Kano States, we are currently in the second phase of implementing the Scaling Up Zinc and LO-ORS to Improve Childhood Diarrhoea Treatment in Northern Nigeria which seeks to reduce the number of deaths due to diarrhoea among children under 5 years. Through our homegrown Primary & Adolescents #PSHE #WASH In Schools programme, we equip children with the skills and knowledge to make informed decisions for their own health and wellbeing, enabling them to be agents of change and positively impact their surroundings in the future. Myself and my foundation are committed to breaking intergenerational cycles of disadvantage and inequality in health and wellbeing that undermine the stability of societies and even the security of our nation. Through a pragmatic and strategic approach, we place children's rights and wellbeing at the centre to catalyse sustainable development by breaking down the transfer of poverty and exclusion from one generation to the next. A child rights-based approach multiplies future development gains. Children's Day offers each of us an inspirational entry-point to advocate, promote and celebrate children's rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better Nigeria for our children. Our children are the leaders of today, we must do everything in our power to create an environment in which they can thrive and succeed, from health, the economy to climate change and beyond.
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FROM May 27th, 2022
Day 4 at the Seventy-Fifth World Health Assembly was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the impact of longstanding allies and advocates - as my Wellbeing Foundation Africa Global Delegation attend ongoing in-person Plenary Committee meetings in the Palais des Nations and various interdisciplinary sessions. As I joined them for the exclusive one-day, hybrid DEVEX@WHA75: Reimagining Global Health Security event, I was delighted to engage with expert analysis and insider coverage of this week’s most important conversations and commitments. The past two years have proven that the world needs to be more prepared for the next pandemic, with a major theme of this year's Assembly focusing on health emergency preparedness and response. Even as COVID-19 bolstered the birth of new initiatives, interest in the creation of new institutions, and debate on how to change what has long been the status quo - the matter of ending the current pandemic remains high on the agenda. Connecting with other leaders in global health from around the globe, it was wonderful to listen to and see my good friend, and longtime advocacy companion, Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa, discuss achieving vaccine equity, as another ally Loyce Pace, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, discussed preparing for the next pandemic and the new preparedness instruments that would be needed, hear from Medtronic LABS, with a spotlight on better health for all through digital solutions, and see Nina Schwalbe, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Dr. Petra Khoury, Director for Health and Care Department, IFRC. With the World Economic Forum, taking place in Davos, ending today, this week in Switzerland has been compelling and poignant. Embodying both the World Economic Forum and the World Health Assembly, I truly believe a philosophy of collaborative, multistakeholder impact, in a uniquely accessible environment, was needed to reconnect, share insights, gain fresh perspectives, and build problem-solving communities and initiatives. As the global fractures and broken systems in health, politics and economics are highlighted, the convenings this week shed light on refreshed rooted trust, a starting point for a new era of global responsibility and cooperation.
FROM May 25th, 2022
“I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me”. ~ Kwame Nkrumah Happy Africa Day! Let us celebrate our continent’s unity, achievements, cultures and traditions. On this day, in 1963, the Organisation of African Unity – now known as the African Union – was established. As we commemorate this momentous day, with the African Union celebrating their 20th anniversary, I am proud to reflect on the accomplishments of our people across the continent. Yesterday, at #WHA75 my brother, Dr Tedros, was elected to serve a second five-year term as Director-General of the world's leading public health agency - The World Health Organization. The first African leader of the United Nations health agency, Dr Tedros’ tireless commitment to global health, care for humanity and humility is an inspiration for us all. His values embody the progress of our continent, and we are fortunate to have direct representation and a primary voice as our advocate. This year's Africa Day celebration is centred on nutrition, with the African Union Theme for the year 2022 “Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent”. Myself and my Wellbeing Foundation Africa would like to emphasise the focused importance of addressing malnutrition and food insecurity, particularly in children. According to the findings of the Cost of Hunger in Africa Study, it is estimated that African countries are losing the equivalent of between 1.9 and 16.5% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to child under-nutrition. It is also estimated that malnourished children are at risk of losing more than 10% of their lifetime earning potential. That is why my WBFA addresses nutrition through our Adolescent Skills and Drills, Personal Social And Health Education programming, and Mamacare360 programme, to particularly empower the girl child and mothers, who often lacks iron and folic acid, as Africa's potential and bright future is centred around African women and youth. They are integral to the solution, especially in driving sustainable development, innovation and achieving the African Union’s vision of Agenda 2063. It is vital that we are supported by increased and well-targeted official development assistance, but above all by an increase in allocations of national resources, focused on the nutritional well-being of populations, including the most vulnerable ones. I trust that Dr Tedros, the WHO and WHOF, will continue to focus on the existing malnutrition challenges which have greatly exposed the economic vulnerability of African countries and the weaknesses of our health and food systems. Working together with all stakeholders, and with effective partnerships with UN Agencies, we can allow Africa the opportunity to thrive as the powerhouse it is, and contribute to achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals. As reinforced and combined action to strengthen resilience in nutrition and food security will lay a strong foundation to empower our continent. “God bless Africa, Guard her people, Guide her leaders, And give her peace.” ~ Trevor Huddleston
FROM May 24th, 2022
As the Seventy-Fifth World Health Assembly begins - the first in-person Health Assembly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic - I am thrilled to join the World Health Organization in celebrating and amplifying the importance of health and wellbeing. Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the WHO is committed to continuing to lead and champion global efforts to give everyone, everywhere an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. The World Health Assembly convenes each year, as it is the main decision-making body of WHO and comprises 194 Member States. Delegates from all Member States have come together to agree on the Organization’s priorities and policies with country delegates making decisions on health goals and strategies that will guide their own public health work. The theme of this year’s Health Assembly is health for peace and peace for health. The COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies with international reach have highlighted the leadership and coordinating role of WHO in responding to such events - necessitating a heightened focus on strengthening preparedness for and response to health emergencies. As the Inaugural Global Health Ambassador for the World Health Organization Foundation, myself and my Wellbeing Foundation Africa are actively working, through advocacy and programming, to achieve the WHO's “triple billion targets”. The targets are that, by 2025 (from a starting point of 2019), one billion more people will be benefiting from universal health coverage, one billion more people will be better protected from health emergencies, and one billion more people will be enjoying better health and well-being. This #WHA75, with pressing matters of civic importance at home in Nigeria, I am ably represented at the in-person strategic roundtable and normative sessions in Geneva by the WBFA Global Delegation, which looks forward to celebrating partnerships in Strengthening Africa's Architecture for Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience, this evening, with special gratitude to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in the presence of Africa CDC, the WHO AFRO and EMRO, and partners in global health emergencies. As the WBFA Global Delegation to WHA75 commences their engagements - I am confident that people-centred frontline impact will shape global policy deliberations and the important gender data around our core focus of RMNCAH, EMONC, Nutrition, One Health and WASH. I look forward to their reports on the implementation of the areas of work set, in order to determine what has been achieved and decide on strategies for addressing the gaps.
FROM May 18th, 2022
I was honoured today to join Pathfinder International and She Forum Africa as a panellist for their high-level convening to deepen awareness and build momentum for gender equality in Nigeria through “Partnerships for Goals: Advancing the Gender Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Coming together on International Day of Living Together in Peace, I reflected on the importance of accepting differences and having the ability to listen to, recognise, respect and appreciate others while encouraging our Nation to unite in differences and diversity, particularly when it comes to Gender Equality, allowing us to further contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Nigeria is a beautiful and unique example of cultural heterogeneity, with over 250 ethnic groups, 500 languages, and many religions. Amplifying the diversity in our national identity is essential to achieve reconciliation and promote harmony. I hold these beliefs and values dearly, as exemplified daily in my life and work with my Wellbeing Foundation Africa, as our efforts towards community behaviour change, and driving a community forward, can only prevail where peace exists. Currently, according to United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), in 2022 Nigeria has 18.5 million out-of-school children, an increase from the 10.6 million in 2015, with over 60% being female, meaning around 10 million girls are out of school today. This heightening of gender inequity in the Nigerian society is the reason why only one in four girls from poor, rural families complete junior secondary school, and why one in every four children out-of-school in the world is from Nigeria. We have a national crisis on our hands due to the terrorist attacks on schools and education centres, gender inequality, and lack of adequate resources, negatively affecting access to education for children across the nation. Addressing the barriers that hinder the girl child's education is extremely important, and exactly why it is essential to have conversations surrounding the topics of ‘Partnerships for Goals: Advancing the Gender Agenda for Sustainable Development’ and ‘International Day of Living Together in Peace'. Our discussions, with representatives from the Government, CSOs, development partners, members of the diplomatic community, youth and disability organisations and various EVAWG stakeholders, including the private sector, focused on commitment to supporting, promoting, strengthening and intensifying solution-oriented advocacy around women and girls agency from a rights perspective through unity and collaboration. By sharing the work of my foundation, and how we analyse gender policies and bills, advocate at all levels to transform the system to further promote the agency and rights of women, girls, and marginalised groups, and identify opportunities to increase the participation of women and girls in SRHR decision-making, I hope to amplify how to regularly mobilise the efforts needed from the national and international community to tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity. WBFA is wholly committed to helping Nigeria achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 with a particular emphasis on SDG 5, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. While progress has been made, no country in the world has achieved gender equality or complete harmony. Our nation must continue on the path to uphold the desire to live and build together towards sustainable solidarity, foster compassion and understand one another. Our differences make us stronger and more dynamic; our diversity enhances our innovation, creativity and potential; our inclusivity encourages various perspectives and growth; our unity makes us Nigeria. Let us mobilise our efforts from corner to corner, I look forward to continuing this discussion with key stakeholders across all sectors, including working with communities, faith leaders and other relevant actors, to leverage and promote the rallying role of the UN Sustainable Development Goals while supporting and educating communities on gender equality and harmony. We need to equalise the equity of opportunity from birth to age - to achieve gender parity.
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FROM May 5th, 2022
To celebrate International Day of the Midwife #IDM2022 and the International Confederation of Midwives centennials anniversary #ICM100, I am thrilled to launch my book in the honour of midwives, maternity support workers and student midwives around the world. ‘Midwives at the ‘Front’ of Frontline Action’ is an anthology of my advocacy and action, with the aim of amplifying resources, respect and recognition for the midwifery profession globally. Featuring recommendations and letters of support from, but not limited to, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus - Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Francis-Day Stirk - Former President of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent - First Chief Midwifery Officer Of England And Professor Of Midwifery at King’s College London and London South Bank University, amongst many more. Over the many years of my advocacy, outreach and community programming journey, I have witnessed midwives meet extraordinary circumstances and risk their lives to provide excellent care to women and their families. As I commemorate their bravery and importance to healthcare, I also call on the international community of health to invest in midwives and maternity care. You can read my ‘Midwives at the ‘Front’ of Frontline Action’ by clicking here!
FROM May 5th, 2022
Today, I celebrate International Day of the Midwife and mark the International Confederation of Midwives centennial. I applaud our collective progress; acknowledge how far we have come in advocating for and delivering, investments in midwifery. Midwives support and protect women, newborns and families. They are crucial to reducing maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Each day they stand up for the rights of women to receive respectful maternity care and fight on the frontlines. Midwifery spans an incredible breadth in healthcare, yet many midwives across the globe, who are predominantly women, face persistent struggles rooted in gender equality, a lack of investment in their profession, training and education, pay gaps and limited protection. Imagine a world where midwives have achieved the investments they deserve, from equitable compensation, fair working conditions and protections, standardised regulation frameworks, equal opportunities to local education, and policy which protects them from gender-based abuse and harassment; midwives would be well supported to avert roughly two-thirds of maternal, newborn deaths and stillbirths by 2035; 1.9 million stillbirths averted every year, 2 million neonatal deaths averted every year, 280K maternal deaths averted every year, saving 4.3 million lives per year. Midwives must be recognised for what they are: a pathway to achieving the #SDGs. Evidence demonstrates that in order to improve maternal and neonatal health, improve sexual and reproductive health and rights and meet the Sustainable Development Goals, midwife-led continuity of care is crucial. Policies which allow midwives to perform their full scope of practice, strengthen primary healthcare systems, and provide an innovative opening to achieving universal health coverage. The midwife, by virtue of her education, sphere, the scope of practice and unique relationship with women and their families, is in an ideal position to provide the information, services and support which women need in planning their families, as well as to influence the type of services based on the International Confederation of Midwives Global Standards for Midwifery Regulation. If midwives had equal access to education, they would have greater career satisfaction and longevity, and all families would have access to culturally relevant, professional sexual and reproductive healthcare, and maternal health. Women and other birthing people everywhere would benefit from life-enhancing, professional and respectful, care and the standards of midwifery practice all over the globe would be raised. The global evidence unequivocally indicates: that increased investments in midwives and midwifery have led to healthier, happier families and communities in every corner of the world. I see it daily with my Wellbeing Foundation Africa midwives, who conduct various programming from our flagship Mamacare360, which delivers care in line with the World Health Organization recommendations and bridges gaps by making the mother a premium partner in her outcome, through respectful maternity care, education and awareness, to our Sanitation Angel midwives, who deliver key WASH and SRHR knowledge and best practice to children and adolescents in schools, and health workers in public and private primary, secondary and tertiary health facilities across Nigeria. That is why I call on governments, policymakers, regulatory authorities, educational institutions and international and civil society organisations to turn their focus to paving the way for midwives, with universal access to sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health services, addressing equity at all levels and leaving no one behind. It is simple: midwives equal sustainable healthcare. Today I thank the midwives who stand up for the rights of women to receive respectful maternity care. The midwives who offer contraception even though their societies refuse. The midwives who have supported pregnant women who are suffering from abuse and cannot return home. The midwives that say no to performing FGM. The midwives that have held perpetrators of rape and violence accountable, despite fear of the ramifications. The midwives that continue to hold the torch for gender equality and defend women and girls. Midwives need support at all levels of a nation to practise in a safe and enabling environment. Midwives should be free from harm going to work, at work and in their homes. Driven by one strong collective voice, we must continue advancing and mobilising the evidence to ensure the next 100 years are even more monumental for midwives, women, newborns and all people. I am in awe each day of midwives around the globe, and proud that each passing year feels more significant for midwives and midwifery than the one before it. We must continue to #PushForMidwives, around the globe.
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FROM April 1st, 2022
In holding true to ancient wisdom, we must continue to evolve and flow.
I was privileged yesterday to honour the invitation of His Imperial Majesty, Alaiyeluwa Arole Odua, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, The Ooni of Ife, to Chair the Launch and Public Presentation of Unspoken: Oba Obinrin, a chronicle not of Queens, but of Female Kings of the ancient yoruba culture and tradition.
Celebrating historical female royal leadership, hitherto unspoken, and thus unknown and unlearnt by so many generations, was to me, a fitting path from a gender precipice to stronger engendered ground in our dear nation, on the last and final day of #WomensHistoryMonth around the world.
In my Chairman's address, I traced the journey and evolution of the role and status of women in Nigeria from precolonial times to the early 21st century - throughout which women have played a major role in social and economic activities, also highlighting also the strong recognition within our yoruba tradition of the philosophy and perception of Abiyamo: The Yoruba concept of Motherhood, as a unique matriarchal leadership model.
As a female leader, Pioneer Member and Steering Council Member of the UN Women’s African Women Leaders Network Initiative globally and in Nigeria respectively, a member of the ICPD25 International Steering Council and Founder and President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, an NGO which works to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for women, infants and children, advocacy for women and the girl child across Nigeria, I stand on the shoulders of the Yoruba heroines who have come before me. It is their strength, their sacrifice and their legacy that has allowed me to face all challenges with boldness and without fear.
As a member of His Imperial Majesty The Ooni of Ife’s Caucus of Eminent Yoruba Sons and Daughters, I am inspired by the works of Queen Moremi Ajasoro and the legendary Ooni Luwo Gbagada of the Ancient Ife, the trailblazing Pupupu of Ondo kingdom, Alaafin Orompotoniyun of Old Oyo kingdom and the memorable female Awujales of Ijebu-Ode.
Alaafia, my central motto promotes the attainment of a state of peace, wellbeing and harmony for our mothers, our Abiyamo, their newborns, their families and communities. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa frontline initiatives and my advocacy are based on the theme Alaafia, to establish, promote and positively impact the health and wellbeing of women and children, families and communities. Through the culture of promoting Alaafia throughout the 670 communities where we now work in Lagos, Cross River, Kaduna, Kwara, Osun, Sokoto, Kano States and the Federal Capital of Abuja, we are empowering and engendering the rise of our women and girls through effective frontline programmatic actions and strategic partnerships
Women in the Yoruba world view appear as 'water' the primordial element, thus there is a tendency to characterise women as an object that can flow across spaces and leave indelible marks in time. According to Yoruba beliefs, water is the essence of life. So is a woman who brings forth children. She ensures the continuity of the life of the lineage and of the community. Indeed, the ancient Yoruba declaratory prayer 'Oju-Oro ni ileke omi' implores those seeking success, strength and superiority to stay on top of water, and thus evolve and flow.
The Alaafia Agenda’s constant and consistent reinforcement, renewal and replenishment of sustainable development actions is in itself a validation of historical culture and tradition. It is only through our joint efforts as pathfinders that we can bring to current and contemporary life - the Yoruba tradition and culture and its pillars of female leadership enshrined in our history by Alaafin Omopoto the first woman to become "king" of the Oyo Empire and Ooni Lúwo Gbàgìdá the 21st Ooni of Ife in the 10th century. Our shared past has given us a special identity, Alaafia Abiyamo, and equally a shared future for our common and universal wellbeing as crowned, uncrowned and acknowledged Oba Obinrin.
We must and will rise to our obligation and the fulfilment that history has bestowed on us, as pathfinders, for our women, for our children, for our menfolk, our ecosystem of communities, and for our leaders of tomorrow.
FROM March 25th, 2022
I was pleased to join the Bricon Foundation, Co-founders Dr Niyi Adekeye and Mrs Abigail Simon-Hart, Trustee Mrs Sonja Ally and special guest Dr Adamu Umar, President of the Nigerian Cancer Society at the launch of The Bricon Foundation’s new fundraising campaign “ E Fit B u” to raise 50 Million Naira for cancer patient treatment on Sunday, March 20th, 2022. Cancer remains the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly one in six deaths, and with a new case of cancer being diagnosed every 2 seconds, changing lives completely. In 2018, I and my Wellbeing Foundation Africa commissioned the Report of the Rapid Assessment of Cancer Care in Nigeria by The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) on behalf of Amref Health Africa. As the statistics prove, cancer is a personal story for all of us, with us all being affected. In February of this year, I lost a very close friend of mine, Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela to cancer. She was a passionate advocate for eliminating neglected tropical diseases as Director of WHO’s Department of Control of NTDs. She was also a highly respected scientist, who specialised in lymphatic filariasis in Tanzania - a truly inspirational figure for young women in science, a dedicated leader and a committed listener. Unfortunately, cancer is a cruel and silent disease. It does not care about your age, gender, status, or personality to be diagnosed with it, but then to be treated for it, it does; the equity gap within cancer care is costing lives. People who seek cancer care hit barriers at every turn. Income, education, geographical location and discrimination based on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability and lifestyle, and the cancer care infrastructure and specialist nursing and midwifery workforce deficit are just a few of the factors that can negatively affect care. The most disadvantaged groups are also more likely to have increased exposure to a host of other risk factors, like tobacco, an unhealthy diet or environmental hazards. It is almost guaranteed that the cancer care gap affects you or people in your community. If we work collectively we can close the gap. The reality today is that who you are and where you live could mean the difference between life and death. It is not fair, but we can work to change this. We must bridge the gap and support organisations like Bricon in their admirable work to make the lives of people experiencing cancer and their families better and together, strive to make a difference in the Cancer Care landscape in Nigeria. Nigeria suffers from high morbidity and mortality of cancer, with a 60 percent death rate. This rate is disturbing and extremely high. By improving the gaps that exist throughout the cancer care supply chain; from policy to health system capacity, screening and early detection to financing treatments, and the available workforce in cancer care to cancer survivors and family support, we can support the 40% while raising the overall survival rate. According to the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Amref Health Africa’s landmark 2018 Rapid Assessment of Cancer Care in Nigeria - which guided Nigeria’s policymakers in formulating National Cancer Strategy and Registries - the burden and trend of non-communicable diseases - including cancer - is on the increase in Nigeria - and it is instructive that the research was supported not by any domestic resource mobilisation, but by an international donor, Takeda. We found that most states had only one officer in their NCD unit who rarely comes to the workstation. Primary Health Cares have functional referral systems but most health workers in these facilities do not have the capacity to screen or make diagnoses at this level. The treatment in these facilities is not optimal because of inadequate financing, insufficient equipment and a low level of technical know-how in dealing with cancer. The supply chain of drugs and commodities are also very expensive, leading to the majority of the population experiencing a financial barrier to treatment. The report shows that at a stakeholders' level, the awareness of cancer is low, and according to the health workers, most of the patients present themselves to the health centres when cancer is at stage 3 or 4 when nothing much can be done beyond palliative care and counsel. The cancer care landscape in Nigeria is compounded with an acute shortage of health personnel, due to the ongoing brain drain of health personnel to high-income countries. For example, Clinical Nurse Specialists in Nigeria are long overdue for the development, recognition, and legal inclusion of the Midwifery and CNS roles and practices in the career structure of nurses at all levels of the health system and Midwifery Services Framework. In collaboration with national and international partners, my Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s Cancer Alliance is now committed to formulating a road map towards an important Push Policy that would: train, recognize and remunerate advanced degree nurses and Midwives in the clinical settings with appropriate salary scale; establish standards for CNS role and practice; and develop the CNS curriculum with master’s level courses that include opportunities for content-specific clinical experiences such as specialist training for cancer nursing. The Bricon Foundation recognises the lack of sufficient support structure (counselling and advice), equipment, financial assistance and trained medical personnel to cope with the ever-increasing numbers of cancer patients. Whilst screening and advocacy continue to bring cancer patients to the fore, the treatment and support structures cannot cope with these rising volumes. There is, therefore, a need to address the different areas of cancer care to ensure that patients who are found to have cancer, have choices of where to go to receive care, and more importantly can afford to have this care at all. We cannot overemphasise the importance of having the relevant medical infrastructure within the country, supported by well-trained motivated professionals and appropriate legislation. This can only be done if there is sufficient funding to the medical sector as a whole and if there are funding mechanisms to make more complex specialist care such as cancer treatment available to all citizens and not just the wealthy and informed. Helping raise awareness about cancer via education, advocacy and counselling, caring about the emotional well-being of those with cancer, and supporting fundraising for treatment, equipment and training are all necessary for the continued fight against cancer. In 2022, the Bricon Foundation remains committed to improving the quality of care available to cancer patients through support for the purchase of much-needed cancer drugs and medicaments, funding for treatment and diagnostic tests as well as much-needed emotional support to them and their families. They will also resume training programmes for healthcare workers in Breaking Bad News, end of life and Palliation. This battle requires a holistic approach, including increasing the awareness about the disease; educating on screening and early diagnosis; training and retraining of relevant health workers; and infrastructure upgrade in our facilities across the country. Let us all support Bricon in their commendable work to make sure cancer patients, survivors and their families are supported in all stages of this disease by contributing to the Bricon Foundation’s target of Raising 50 million Naira so that we can support the Foundation in this mission. Since I am committed to the cause of upskilling the nursing and midwifery profession to provide specialist care, I am working towards mobilising resources to create a dedicated grant to support the Bricon Foundation’s Macmillan based services. We may not cure cancer today, but we can contribute to the battle against it by doing what we can to support closing the care gap today!
FROM March 17th, 2022
We must create better opportunities for women and children with disabilities. When disparities due to gender, disability and age intersect, these driving factors widen inequities, intensifying exclusion. The time is now to turn the clock forward on women’s rights. March is an empowering and significant month for women and girls globally, with it being Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day (IWD), Women’s Week and the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66). As we spend the month celebrating women and girls, their contributions to history, culture and society, and advocating for their further equity and opportunity, we must highlight women as active supporters and claimholders of development. No nation can advance progressively in any sector without the contributions of all women. Despite the enormous and undeniable contributions women and girls make to their communities, they continue to be marginalized and deprived due to gender inequality. “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” is this year’s IWD theme, and I had the pleasure to expand on this subject with Radio Nigeria on IWD - March 8th in association with Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, in the lead up to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (14-25 March, 2022). I truly believe that achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes will require deliberate and intentional actions to integrate a #OneHealth approach. Disparities due to gender, along with factors such as disability and age, respectively, are driving factors for widening inequities. When the three intersect, the negative impact of exclusion is intensified. As a result, adolescent girls with disabilities are one of the population groups facing overwhelming barriers and are left furthest behind in all walks of life. I am humbled to, in association with my Wellbeing Foundation Africa, join PMNCH global alliance for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health to highlight these persistent disparities and their consequences. Disability and poverty reinforce and perpetuate one another and as such, disability has a higher prevalence in lower-income countries. 80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries, facing more frequent socioeconomic inequities than their non-disabled peers, including a higher rate of poverty, lower education level and increased rate of unemployment. Girls with disabilities experience a range and variety of impairments, including physical, psychosocial, intellectual and sensory conditions, that may or may not come with functional limitations. Compared to men without disabilities, women with disabilities are three times more likely to have unmet needs for health care, three times more likely to be denied health care, four times more likely to be treated badly in the healthcare system and 50% more likely to suffer catastrophic health expenditure. While all people with disabilities face varying discrimination and are often invisible in policies, women and girls with disabilities are subjected to double discrimination: because of their gender as well as disability bias. Women and girls with disabilities are not a homogenous group: they include those with multiple and intersecting identities across all contexts, such as ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds; their status as refugee, migrant, asylum-seeking, and internally displaced women; LGBTIQ+ identity; age; marital status; and living with or being affected by HIV. The disabilities being faced by women and girls are equally diverse, including physical, psychosocial, intellectual and sensory conditions, that may or may not come with functional limitations. The pre-existing inequities and discrimination that adolescent girls face on a daily basis have been further amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. In places hit hard by COVID-19 and others with a much lower rate of infection—women and girls with disabilities are still being left behind. They are struggling to meet basic needs, to access needed health services including those specific to their gender and disability, and face disproportionate risks of violence. Systemic barriers coupled with the failure to prioritize the collection of data on the situation of women and girls with disabilities have perpetuated their ‘invisibility’ within societies, as multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination exclude them from various aspects of life. Girls with disabilities have lower school completion rates and lower literacy rates than all other children, for example, and girls and women with disability face particular barriers to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and information. Provision of accessible sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services for girls and young women with disabilities are largely non-existent, with service providers in health centres, schools, and institutions that house them ill-prepared to handle their specific needs. And when women and girls with disabilities try to access services, they can experience negative and hostile attitudes among service providers, lack of accessible buildings, equipment, and transportation, affordability of services, and isolation in institutions, camps, family homes, or group homes. Women and girls with disabilities also suffer up to three times greater risk of rape and are twice as likely to be survivors of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence (over a longer period and with more severe injuries) than women without disabilities. The absence of appropriate sanitation facilities for girls with disabilities in schools, including separate, accessible, and sheltered toilets, in addition to the lack of education, resources, and support for menstrual hygiene, compromise their ability to properly manage their hygiene and make them especially prone to diseases. This often leads to girls and young women with disabilities staying at home or being sent to special schools. It can also lead to grave violations of rights such as forced hysterectomies or forced use of contraception that can eliminate or reduce menstruation. Girls and young women with disabilities have the same sexual and reproductive health and rights as other girls and young women, as recognised in various internationally recognised conventions signed by many countries, for example, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), yet in practice, their needs are being overlooked or under-prioritised. This needs to change. The situation for girls and women with disabilities only worsens in humanitarian settings - conflict and displacement exacerbate and heighten the discrimination that they already face in times of peace and destroy their protection systems, making them more vulnerable to exploitation. In such vulnerable situations, for example, girls and women with disabilities face increased levels of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) in and out of the home, especially those with intellectual and mental disabilities. Factors contributing to the lack of inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in humanitarian response include; gaps in policy development and implementation; negative attitudes of family members and communities; limited staff knowledge, attitudes, and practices; and lack of champions and local partners. My foundation - the Wellbeing Foundation Africa focuses on preventing birth injuries that may cause or lead to disabilities by improving maternal and child health from the very start. We emphasize and practice screening in order for preparedness, work with healthcare facilities to strengthen EmONC throughout Africa and the developing world and educate our mothers through the WBFA Mamacare360 flagship programme. We do this all while always practicing and preaching inclusion and accessibility of all. Universal access to EmONC is essential to reduce maternal mortality and requires that all pregnant women and newborns with complications have rapid access to well-functioning facilities that include a broad range of service delivery types and settings. We must ingrain this practice throughout Africa and rebuild the healthcare system. The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development is clear that disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programming and the realization of human rights. The SDGs include seven targets that explicitly refer to persons with disabilities. There is a need for an intersectional approach that empowers women and girls with disabilities and dedicates more resources and technical support, integrates innovative solutions, and develops guidance and practice which explicitly considers disability to create more enabling and accessible environments for persons with disabilities. Disability-related support services must also be classified as essential services. States must undertake long-term efforts to ensure the full respect, protection, and fulfillment of SRHR, the right to be free from violence, and related rights for women and girls with disabilities at all times. We need more data in this arena to support programme development. States need to prioritise the collection and dissemination of disability-related and disaggregated data and information to drive evidence-based programming and accountability. Adolescent girls with disabilities should be capacitated, empowered and meaningfully engaged in the development of all policies, programmes and legal processes that affect their health and well-being, which is one of the central tenets of PMNCH’s Adolescent Call to Action: https://www.adolescents2030.org/. We need to recognize that African culture hides disability, and therefore access to available basic needs becomes a problem. African Countries and policy makers must implement a One Health approach to tackle future pandemics and develop a system of support that provides a better platform for engagement with PWDs, to grant them more access to basic facilities in the country. One Health is gaining recognition as an effective way to fight health issues at the human-animal-environment interface, including zoonotic diseases, as the approach recognizes how intertwined the health of people is with the health of animals, plants, and our shared environment. This collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach when implemented at the local, regional, national, and global levels can achieve the goal of optimal health outcomes which recognise the intrinsic connection between all living matters. Successful public health interventions require the cooperation of human, animal, and environmental health partners. Professionals in human health (doctors, nurses, public health practitioners, epidemiologists), animal health (veterinarians, paraprofessionals, agricultural workers), environment (ecologists, wildlife experts), and other areas of expertise need to communicate, collaborate on, and coordinate activities. Even law enforcement, policymakers, agriculture, communities, and pet owners are relevant players in a One Health approach. No one person, organization, or sector can address issues at the animal-human-environment interface alone. To create a safer, more equitable future for our women and girls, we must advocate and put into action proactive and accessible policy which supports them from the get-go and not only when emergency situations arise. Through collective effort, we can create a sustainable tomorrow built upon and based on gender equality.
FROM March 2nd, 2022
Today I write in disappointment and dismay, but undaunted. I am filled with the determination that Nigeria’s women must succeed. As I write this note, Nigeria’s lawmakers - elected and empowered primarily and federally to protect and uphold the rights and dignities of the Nigerian people - have once again cemented another painful setback for us, our women and girls. On Tuesday the 1st of March, Members of the 9th Session of the National Assembly’s House of Representatives voted a loudly reverberating, and disregarding no to four gender-sensitive bills proffered within the review of 68 amendments to the 1999 Constitution: A bill to provide 111 special seats for women in the National and State Houses of Assembly – Rejected A bill to expand of the scope of citizenship by registration – Rejected A bill for Affirmative Action for women in political party administration and leadership – Rejected. A bill to reserve a quota for women (on political appointments) – Rejected. The denial of passage of these bills illustrate the palpable opposition to opening the space for women’s participation in everyday politics, governance and in the exercise of our rights and power. We are furious. Women are locked in a cage of underrepresentation in Nigeria. As of February 2021, only 3.6% of seats in parliament were held by women in a country where 49% of the population is female. Currently, only seven out of 109 senators and 22 of the 360 House of Representatives members are women. The legislature, like many arms of the Federal Government, is an old boys club where girls are not welcome. [caption id="attachment_1658" align="alignnone" width="640"] Advocacy visit, 8th Senate, 2016[/caption] Making gains has been difficult. In the previous 8th National Assembly, we came closer than ever before with the passage of transformative legislation. However, with yesterday’s raucous dismissal of the most recent gender-sensitive bills, announced amidst the belly laughs of Senators and Honourables, previously visited by the First Lady, and witnessed on the dire day by the Second Lady respectively, the 9th National Assembly is sending a glaring message to the world: greater political representation of women is not welcome in our hallowed chambers, and within the boundaries and coasts of our shores. So I find myself asking, like many others, does Nigeria respect the rights of women? It is greater representation and equality of opportunity that has been proven, through decades and across nations, to be the pivot and the panacea in building and sustaining strong, vibrant democracies. Where calm deliberations around inclusivity breeds responsive policies and enabling environments that are designed for the very people that need them. Yesterday’s actions only reveal that the perceived worth of women, and our ability to lead and participate with effectiveness and substance, to add value to our economies, government and communities - is largely disrespected and grossly undervalued. Take for instance the matter of citizenship, which has come to be seen as something as universal as DNA - an innate equality. Citizenship is a juristic and political status where the individual enjoys full, legally sanctioned membership in his or her state and owes full allegiance to it, regardless of gender. Yet while a man can pass citizenship to his wife, much like passing on his DNA to his child, the 1999 Constitution discriminates against the woman seeking to pass citizenship on to her spouse. She is denied equal nationality rights, her spouse rendered stateless, unrecognised as a citizen in his wife’s country. In roughly 50 countries such laws are often the legacy of practices implemented under colonial rule, digging insidious roots in old systems that hold women to be unequal to men. But even Africa is shedding this skin and stepping boldly into modernity. Our neighbours work to secure contemporary Nationality laws that don’t discriminate on the basis of gender and instead align with global consensus embodied through platforms such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which explicitly obliges States to guarantee equal nationality rights to women (Article 9). Gender equality can never be realized in a country that maintains gender-discriminatory nationality laws. But the actions of the 9th National Assembly go beyond equality. It reflects the lack of equity and opportunity for women and girls, and our entire female gender, under the Constitution. There is no justice for women without equality. If understanding justice to be righting the wrong and compensating the marginalised - our lawmakers recognise no injustice. The bill for Affirmative Action for women in political party administration and leadership has its foundation in this understanding of compensatory justice- that through greater representation, we are securing a systematic way of “righting the wrong'' for women, achieving both equality and reparation, without force. We have seen this approach come to life in countries like Rwanda and South Africa who have used a quota system to pave the way for women representation in politics. In Rwanda, over 50% of political positions are held by women and we see a similar case in Ethiopia’s 50% women cabinet. Role models have been nurtured, and pave the way of other women to rise to positions of power and aspire to leadership positions. Affirmative action is not the end, but merely a means to promote true, lasting diversity and open the gateways for political, economic and social equality. For so long, Nigeria’s women have been handed the crumbs of the national cake, forced into a silent corner, only to cry into an open void. But enough is enough. The state of our nation will never improve, until our representatives actually respect and accurately reflect our values, voices and realities, break the bias and ultimately balance that reflection with our national aspiration. I remain dismayed not only because yesterday was truly a dark day of discrimination against women in Nigeria and indeed for women all around the world. But because I believe this act is beyond ineptitude - and signposts Misogyny: the misogyny against protecting our rights, and chance to live, thrive and flourish equally. From a civil society perspective, there is a bright klieglight on the pathway to change. With gender equality fuelling our advocacy and programme strategies, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa has played notable roles in the major events that have shaped the course of campaigns for the rights of women and girls globally since the Beijing Declaration in 1995. Most notably committing to the rise of women and girls through WBFA’s endorsement of The Girl Declaration launched in 2013, as a call to action that aims to ensure that adolescent girls are included in the post-2015 agenda, demanding that governments, organisations, individuals and other stakeholders LISTEN, and the Nairobi Statement on ICPD25: Accelerating the Promise, with its asks and commitments. [caption id="attachment_1661" align="alignnone" width="638"] The Girl Declaration[/caption]
FROM February 25th, 2022
The WHO and UNICEF recently released their joint findings on the impact of marketing in the sector of formula milk. The study, commissioned by WHO and UNICEF, was undertaken between August 2019 and April 2021 by a specialist research team with commercial marketing and behaviour change expertise, and conducted in eight countries – Bangladesh, China, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), and Viet Nam. The largest-ever study of its kind, it draws on surveys with over 8500 pregnant women and mothers of young children (aged 0-18 months) and more than 300 health professionals. The report exposes the aggressive marketing practices used by the formula milk industry and highlights impacts on families' decisions about how to feed their infants and young children. It is apparent from the report that the marketing of formula milk influences our decisions on infant feeding. From the moment you are pregnant, you begin to research best practices to ensure you have the healthiest baby possible. Milk marketing executives are aware of this, and track your interest, logging you on their future sales spreadsheet. By drawing on your fears and insecurities as you navigate your new normal, they spin the truth about their products and utilize trusted sources to spread their misinformation. Formula milk marketing is powered by enormous budgets, which deliberately misuse science for profit. The ingrained messaging in our society is driving the over-consumption of formula milk and discouraging breastfeeding. It is also undermining women’s confidence and cynically exploiting parents’ instinct to do the best for their children. The consequences for children and families are significant, as consumption of milk formula can adversely affect children’s health, growth and development. It can also incur quite significant costs for families who can ill afford it. Let’s be clear: breastfeeding is the best possible source of nutrition for babies. Decades of research continue to reveal the incredible properties of mothers' own milk for growth, preventing infections, bonding, and brain development. Breastfeeding also supports the health of mothers. Formula milk has its place for women and parents who are not able to do so or those who can not do so due to the result of other factors – such as employment that is not supportive of breastfeeding. Yet, breastmilk and breastfeeding still remains the best possible option. Exploitative marketing practices continue to be immensely detrimental to maternal and child healthcare, and global health while feeding a misleading narrative into our communities. We must amplify breastfeeding as the best possible practice. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa is committed to doing so, and throughout our dedicated Alive and Thrive, Mamacare+Nlift, WBFA-Laerdal, and Mamacare360 baby-friendly lactation support promotion programming, and dedicated NICU-specific WBFA-MedelaCares Partnership to help Nigeria's 378,000 premature infants annually receive the benefits of breastmilk, WBFA fully endorses the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes - The landmark public health agreement passed by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Breast milk helps keep your baby healthy, you healthy, and bonds you together through skin-to-skin contact. It truly is the perfect food for your baby.
FROM February 9th, 2022
2021 Year in Review Presented By Toyin Saraki Global Office & Philanthropy Full circle, reinforcement and replenishment to protect the progress - a healthy future for all. I am honoured to present my 2021 Global Office and Philanthropy Annual Review, based on our core mission, ensuring a healthy future for all. Our current climate inspired my programmatic, communications and advocacy strategy, in what has now become a full circle - reinforcement and replenishment to protect the progress towards a healthy future for all. We saw a metamorphosis take place so that our innovative and dedicated work could remain tenacious, compelling and dependable for all. This achievement embodies our continued labour over 18 years of devoted and enthusiastic philanthropic endeavours, comprehensive frontline programming, and synergetic global partnerships. I consider it an honour and a privilege to continue supporting the Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s 2022 mission and impact, which remains ingrained in our decades of research, awareness and implementation. We look forward to further advancing our goals and targets. You can download my 2021 Annual Review or read it below. 2021 Year in Review Toyin Saraki
FROM February 7th, 2022
This past week, the Government of Nigeria launched their Revised National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development, emphasizing the immediate measures needed to combat a fertility rate that is increasing exponentially each day. Through expanding access to modern family planning, counseling and commodities, as well as promoting birth spacing, the government aims to improve the standard of living for all Nigerians and improve the health of women and children. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and seventh globally, with a fast-rising fertility rate. This, paired with the ever-challenging maternal and childbirth mortality and morbidity indices; and a significant education-occupation mismatch in the context of informality and development, continues to affect our national GDP. Half of the female population in Nigeria are in their reproductive years, and unfortunately, fewer than one out of five married women use family planning. The limited access due to supply chain failure, and lack of investment in education surrounding family planning for young people, has had a detrimental effect on our women, girls and children - putting their health at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated supply chain systems around the world, making it even more difficult for low-income countries to access potentially life-saving medical supplies and sexual and reproductive health services. While governments, NGOs such as my Wellbeing Foundation Africa, and private sector corporations are working together on innovative methods and policies to overcome these hurdles, the crippling effects will take time to recover from. The reproductive and sexual health commodities supply chain is one of the systems which is suffering, leading to unsafe, unplanned, pregnancies that are fuelling an unsustainable population growth in Nigeria. The larger the population grows without choice and accessible education and healthcare, the more difficulties we will see arise in economic prosperity. A weakened GDP will contribute to higher inflation yet stagnated average incomes fuelling the cycle of poverty which is already deep-seated throughout the Nation. Throughout the pandemic, my incredible WBFA frontline staff and midwives ensured that our Mamacare360 programs were able to continue safely, in an effort to tackle these growing gaps of inequality. Our Mamacare+Nlift in particular focused on family planning alongside IFA supplementation to combat anaemia. We expanded this program by recruiting more midwives and healthcare staff while broadening our reach to more healthcare facilities and healthcare service delivery areas, including home-care service and follow-up. This grassroots advocacy and programme implementation allowed for an increase in local ownership of health services and supply chain management, which ensured improved access and sustainability to family planning programming. Lack of access and supply chain failure are major factors in why women do not use contraceptives or discontinue doing so. Therefore, establishing, maintaining, and strengthening local supply chains is one of the fundamental components in achieving a demographic shift, economic growth and zero unmet need for modern family planning within Nigeria: to work towards a nation where every child is wanted, planned, and nurtured, from birth to age.
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FROM January 31st, 2022
On World NTD Day, I was honoured to be recognised by the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, the Global First Ladies Alliance and The End Fund, for the Wellbeing Foundation Africa's efforts in bringing NTD-education into maternal health check-ups, strong advocacy for investment in WASH services, and helping to recruit more partners and leaders to the fight against NTDs, including the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria. The global commitment to end NTDs in the past decade has made for undeniable positive development. As World NTD Week continues, we celebrate our progress, while advocating for the work that remains. Therefore, I am excited to welcome the launch of the Kigali Declaration on neglected tropical diseases – a high-level political declaration that aims to mobilise political will and secure commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3 target on NTDs and to deliver the targets set out in the World Health Organization’s Neglected Tropical Disease Roadmap (2021-2030). So far forty-three countries have eliminated at least one NTD, with 600 million people no longer requiring treatment for NTDs. Some of these diseases have plagued humanity for centuries, proving that with dedication and perseverance ending NTDs is possible. The Kigali Declaration allows us to build on these previous achievements by implementing country ownership, highlighting private sector partnership and multilateral collaboration, and putting individuals and communities at the centre of the NTD response. I am proud to pledge my, and my Wellbeing Foundation Africa's ongoing commitment to advocating for embedding NTD services and interventions in our national health systems, ensuring the prioritisation of programmes to prevent, diagnose and treat NTDs are fully resourced and fully integrated, and that women, young people, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented groups are included in this decision-making. We are aware that NTDs are diseases of poverty and inequity. By tackling NTDs through political and policy engagement we will reduce poverty, address inequity, strengthen health systems, and build resilient communities, bringing us closer to achieving universal health coverage - these are a few of the many global health security benefits in supporting national NTD programmes. The efforts to tackle NTDs are a global health success story, but there is still a lot more work to be done before the world is free of NTDs. The Kigali declaration is for, and in service of, the 1.7 billion people who continue to suffer from NTDs. We must hold our ministers accountable, and ask them how the country is working to implement the Kigali Declaration for a brighter future for all. #EndTheNeglect #WorldNTDDay #BeatNTDS #100percentCommitted #LightUpTheWorld
FROM January 21st, 2022
Today on Frontline Friday I would like to highlight an incredible donation from our dedicated partner organisation, Medela Cares. Medela Cares was born out of Medela as a corporate social responsibility program to support the United Nations Global Compact and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Medela is a global player in breastfeeding research, products, technology and innovation, and is the #1 breast pump brand most recommended by doctors and use in hospitals. Founded in 1961 by Olle Larsson and headquartered in Switzerland, under the leadership of Olle Larsson’s son Michael, Medela has become a driving force in breastfeeding products and medical vacuum technology thanks to continued research, innovation and the evaluation of customers' needs. With my extensive advocacy and promotion on the benefits of early and exclusive breastfeeding for the mum and their baby, it is fitting that Medela Cares has partnered with my Wellbeing Foundation Africa to collaborate on our intrinsic synergies in alignment with UN’s Every Woman, Every Child. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants providing all the energy and nutrients they need, especially premature babies in the NICU who are more susceptible to infections. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies that help protect against many common infant and childhood illnesses. Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Currently, Nigeria is the 6th for infant mortality globally, and in children younger than 5 years, 47% of deaths occur in the first 28 days of life, many of which are preventable and can be addressed through improved nutrition with mother’s milk. Unfortunately, Nigeria, with one of the highest premature delivery rates in the world, also has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world with only 17% of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their children through 6 months. To improve these statistics, the United Nations set a global goal to improve breastfeeding rates to 50% by the year 2030, which WBFA and Medela Cares are actively working to reach. Together, Medela Cares and the Wellbeing Foundation Africa are improving the education, tools and support offered to NICU medical professionals and new mothers of premature babies in Nigeria by delivering NICU-specific education and training on the value of human milk and how to build sufficient milk supply for long-term breastfeeding. Ensuring new mothers are wholly supported to breastfeed is not only critical for the health and wellbeing of the baby: it is linked to all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Medela Cares life-saving donation to WBFA include:
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FROM January 18th, 2022
Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Nutrition International LO-ORS Zinc Case Studies Contribute Key Learning To Nigeria's National Product Supply Chain Management Program. My vision for the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) was to build an NGO which promotes an environment where the wellbeing of all can thrive. In which every man, woman, adolescent, child, and infant has reliable, obtainable health care, at all stages of life. Through our vast global partnerships and in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with measurable and meaningful outcomes, we have successfully established this vision and advocated heavily for the betterment of universal health care and practices within Nigeria. This has led the Wellbeing Foundation Africa to actively commit to promoting comprehensive access, availability and management of Nigeria’s Essential Medicines List. One medicine in particular which we have been championing is Zinc and Low-Osmolarity oral Rehydration Solution (LO-ORS) to combat childhood diarrhoea. Diarrhoea is the second commonest cause of childhood mortality among children under 5 years of age globally. Each episode contributes to a significant nutritional deprivation that negatively affects child growth, particularly in more serious and prolonged episodes. The mortality of diarrhoea remains high in Africa, despite being easily treated with Zinc LO-ORS. Within Nigeria, Diarrhoea is the second largest cause of death in children, responsible for an estimated 151,700 children dying in Nigeria every year. It remains an immense threat to child survival in Nigeria with 10% of deaths in children under five resulting from this disease. The national diarrhoea prevalence rate also varies considerably from region to region, with the highest in the North-East and North-West of Nigeria at 24.7% and 14 % respectively, while lowest rate was recorded in the South-West region having a prevalence of 5.3%, largely influenced by socio-economic status of households. Our advocacy efforts bore fruit 2012, when WBFA in collaboration with the WHO PMNCH, UN Every Woman Every Child Initiative, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and the Federal Ministry of Health succeeded in integrating Zinc LO-ORS into Nigeria’s Essential Medicines List, which led to saving over 1,000,000 lives. Nigeria still suffers from a high death rate due to diarrhoea which undermines the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if left unmanaged, as the understanding and implementation of Zinc LO-ORS is not universally adopted in Nigeria. When WBFA identified these gaps, and that Diarrhoea prevalence and treatment in Nigeria is substantially higher in the Northern regions, we engaged Nutrition International (NI) as a partner to support the Scaling up Zinc and LO-ORS to improve Childhood Diarrhoea treatment in two states - Sokoto and Kano in Northern Nigeria - in order to further improve their performances towards ensuring equity in the distribution of wealth and healthcare services related to diarrhoea management across the country. Our partnership allows both technical and financial support to Kano and Sokoto to address key factors associated with high diarrhoea morbidity and mortality, including the bottlenecks associated with the supply chain in diarrhoea treatment. Therefore, this week the Wellbeing Foundation Africa is extremely proud to be presenting and participating at the Stakeholders Meeting on the National Product Supply Chain Management Program (NPSCMP) New Approaches to DRF/DMA Set-Up. WBFA’s journey in the implementation of Zinc and LO-ORS to improve childhood diarrhoea treatment in Northern Nigeria (Kano and Sokoto State) with a focus on DRF/DMA strengthening is of valuable knowledge for NPSCMP. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s ongoing program intervention with Nutrition International implementing - ‘Scaling up Zinc and LO-ORS to Improve Childhood Diarrhoea treatment in Northern Nigeria', supported by the Government of Canada, with a specific focus on supporting states Drug Revolving Fund mechanisms commenced in August 2021 in the two high-burden north-west states of Kano and Sokoto to:
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FROM January 12th, 2022
I am delighted to announce that the World Health Organization Foundation has named me their Inaugural Global Health Ambassador. Since the commencement of the WHO Foundation last year, I have been in awe of the dedication, energy and far-reaching ability of the organization to excite the global community towards the shared goal of strengthening our global health ecosystem. In the short space of time since its inception, the WHO Foundation has exemplified tackling the biggest global health challenges collaboratively. Their battle for equity and accessibility throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by way of managing the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund (SRF) has been inspiring. Additionally, the launch of the ‘Go Give One’ campaign has created a pathway for an individual to contribute towards vaccine equity, and a strong fundraising drive has led to an impressive $20 million being raised by the foundation in just over six months. This speaks volumes of not only the WHO Foundation’s visionary leadership, but of a united belief that the foundation can truly bring together every global citizen to play a role in world health and address the most pressing health challenges of today and tomorrow, to bring about the necessary change needed. As Founder-President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, and having served as a special adviser to WHO AFRO, I have been an active global advocate for women’s and children’s health and empowerment, with my advocacy covering reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health; ending gender-based discrimination and violence; and improving education, socio-economic empowerment, and community livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore it feels like a natural progression for the blossoming collaboration between my advocacy, philanthropy, and the WHO Foundation values to unite. I truly believe our intrinsic synergies will create a powerful platform to fight the many challenges faced in global health. As I come into my role, I must acknowledge that now more than ever, it is clear that our health is not guaranteed. While healthcare and life expectancy has made great strides in our lifetimes, there is still much we have yet to understand or uncover, especially when it comes to preventative care. As we continue to see with COVID-19, we are also completely under-prepared to fight new viruses and emerging illnesses. Now with climate change becoming an incorporating factor in healthcare, these challenges, epidemics and pandemics are heightened. Our goal as advocates, thought-leaders, private sector driving forces and changemakers at large, is to support and strengthen the directives and efforts of Governments, CSOs, Policymakers and Agents of Change. Moving forward, societal support must look like contributions; financial and otherwise - particularly from the private pillars within society, industry influencers and members of the public. Global health needs us all, from every country, to work as one. We must all dedicate ourselves to keeping the world safe, and advocate for the protection of the most vulnerable. By working together, we can change the lives of future generations. I look forward to propelling one of the world’s most influential global health initiatives forward through the joint force and work we have initiated. We have set out to protect the health and well-being of everyone, in every part of the world, and I am honoured as the Inaugural Ambassador to reiterate my commitment to the development, growth and mission of the WHO Foundation, and to support the World Health Organization (WHO) and the global health community. Official Press Release
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FROM December 12th, 2021
Women deserve to live without fear of harassment or violence! I was honoured to join Global Citizen, UN Women, the Federal Minister of Women Affairs and several active national organisation in vowing to raise our collective voices to improve the lives and outcomes of the world’s most marginalised and vulnerable people - at the Global Citizen High-Level Roundtable in Abuja focused on ‘Action Against Gender-Based Violence: Full Domestication of VAPP Act by All States in Nigeria’. As a female leader, and Founder and President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, an NGO which works to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for women, infants and children, advocacy for women and children across Nigeria and the topic of gender-based violence is extremely near and dear to me. We are currently in the midst of a shadow pandemic that affects women and girls disproportionately. Gender-Based Violence remains a scourge in Nigeria society where women and girl children are more at the receiving end than their male counterparts. 30% of Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15 and 28% of Nigerian women aged 25-29 have experienced some form of physical violence (NDHS 2013). From female genital mutilation to early forced marriage being a cultural norm in Nigeria, with 43% of girls married before the age of 18, Nigeria is currently ranked as the 7th most dangerous country for women to live in. GBV remains an oppressive form of gender inequality, posing a fundamental barrier to the equal participation of women and men in social, economic, and political spheres. This calls for emergency and urgent action to protect women and girls in our country. Much work has been done since 2012’s ‘Reducing Domestic Violence Campaign’when an unprecedented and independent WBFA survey and documentary collaboration with the Global Foundation For Elimination Of Domestic Violence and Peace One Day revealed that 1 in every 5 women in Nigeria had encountered some form of discrimination and GBV. GBV is a ‘secret sin’, many women and girls are victims, yet keep quiet. This is a matter that should never be trivialized. We as a society need to stop providing an environment that condones remaining in abusive relationships and situations. That Reducing Domestic Violence campaign ignited public discourse - and an increase in reporting - yet today in 2021, gender-based violence is still such a prevalent and recurring issue in Nigeria, affecting women and girls of all ages. Not long after, in 2014, Nigeria was confronted with the abduction of the Chibok Schoolgirls, prompting an international and local outcry. Yet, in May of 2020, we lost Vera Uwaila “Uwa” Omozuwa, a 22-year old student at the University of Benin who went to her church to read in a quiet space when she was brutally raped. The viral photos of her bludgeoned body have reverberated around the world, adding fire to the flames of the conversation about brutality, violence and lack of a framework for social justice and responsibility; she died of her injuries on the 30th of May 2020. During that same period of time, in Lagos, 16-year-old Tina Ezekwe was trying to get on a bus when a drunken, corrupt police officer attempted to bribe the driver, leading to a sloppy confrontation and shots fired: the bullet pierced through the upper left side of her lap. The battle to save her life lasted for two days, and she died on the 28th of May 2020. These cases spotlight what has been blindingly evident since the forced abductions of the Chibok and Dapchi Schoolgirls: we are continuously failing our women and girls. When the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act was signed into law in May 2015, it shed a glimmering light of hope for many women and girls across the country. Unfortunately, to date, not all states have passed the Act. With strong advocacy from the Nigerian Governors Wives Forum, UN Women, and Stand to End Rape, we were able to reach 30 out of 36 states which have passed the Act through their state legislative house. This is not good enough, we must amplify and drive the Roadmap to 36 States: Full Domestication and Implementation of the VAPP Act campaign. My organization, Wellbeing Foundation Africa, works to strengthen our primary health, education and workplace structures by integrating PSVI at the frontline will bring equity and efficiency to our preventive and response mechanisms. Because we cannot ordinarily intrude into the home and household behaviours, we need a one-stop approach at our first external levels, at the first outside points of health, work/enterprise and education. Pervasive, gender-based violence is not inevitable - It can and must be prevented. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa creates safe spaces for women and girls by believing survivors, adopting comprehensive and inclusive approaches that tackle the root causes, transforming harmful social norms, and empowering women and girls. This approach has especially been integrated throughout our Mamacare360 Antenatal and Postnatal Community Midwifery and Adolescent PSHE WASH Program which affords professional safe space counselling and referrals in instances of GBV. Through our continuous program delivery, WBFA frontline health workers reach countless pregnant and newly delivered women, adolescent girls, their educators and families each month - and are skilled to provide these resources. The Wellbeing Foundation is also committed to achieving the 3 zeros of Zero unmet needs for family planning and services, zero preventable maternal and infant deaths, zero sexual and gender-based violence including early and forced marriage, as well as female genital mutilation. WBFA is doing so by advancing universal access to sexual and reproductive health, reinforcing the goal to end preventable maternal deaths and empowering the younger generation to know their social, sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must also create a national strategy to educate, empower and heal the nation from the ingrained stigma and predominance of GBV. This would include actualising Nigeria’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, which incorporates PSVI, accountability and ensuring its adoption is consistent as we continue the advocacy and work. Successful national implementation of the VAPP Act would of course have to take into account the characteristics of Nigeria and our people. In our culture, we do not like to talk about sexual violence - consider what it must be like for those in a conflict setting; for the marginalized women and girls who are already on the brink of being bereft of all their rights. When the empowered ones amongst us do not like to talk about it, what about the ones with no rights at all? We need to invest in women’s groups to lead grassroots efforts and engage with political and religious leaders so that we can shift the shame and stigma of sexual violence from the victims onto the perpetrators and get this act signed in the last remaining six states. In November 2019, I joined the Commonwealth Secretariat in launching the Commonwealth Gender Equality Policy and the Commonwealth SAYS NO MORE Initiative at the kind invitation of Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, to raise public awareness of Violence Against Women, to measure progress towards eliminating it, and to continue to mobilise people everywhere to bring about change by leveraging successful strategies to end domestic violence and sexual assault. If we strengthen our global, national and sub-national community as a whole beyond the government, then that community is better placed to support those in distress; those who have been the victim of conflict and sexual violence. This is a necessity that must resonate across all our states. The African continent, and Nigeria within it, are facing a displacement and refugee crisis. We must create a model which aids survivors in Northern Nigeria and IDP camps - one which uses public hospitals as a base to provide comprehensive services which each survivor needs - medical care, psychosocial support, police and legal support, and a collection of legal evidence. We know that in some cases women in displacement camps in Nigeria have resorted to exchanging sex for food or money, so they can feed their families. A national strategy must restore dignity and safety to these women, no woman or child should ever be forced into sexual transactions, begging for change or modern slavery for survival. I would like to see the mainstreaming of counsellors and clinics in every camp so the help is there where needed, and a formal referral mechanism between the camp authorities and humanitarian organizations so that displaced women and girls can, as standard, access gender-based violence screening services. Let's start with asking women if they have been the victim of bullying; rather than even talking about violence immediately. That way we won’t miss the issue, because someone who is already so vulnerable is far more likely to confess to being bullied or coerced than to rape or sexual violence. Following the lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, where there are restrictions to movement and families staying together more, the incidence of GBV grew exponentially, leaving the more vulnerable gender to groan in silence. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, through our midwives, was at the forefront of campaigning and advocating against any form of physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, threats, coercion and economic or educational deprivation against women and girls. Unfortunately, there was an upsurge in reports of rape across Nigeria during this period. Rape still remains at an epidemic level in Nigeria, and there are no accurate statistics on its prevalence. Most cases of rape go unreported, due to the fear of stigmatisation, victim-blaming and a lack of trust in the police and judiciary. In 2019, I had advocated for SARC Centres to be established at hospitals - GBV cases should be promptly prosecuted within reasonable timeframes, and in line with the law, regardless of interference by interested parties. Through this, we can begin to build trust and data which will help inform the national strategy and create a safer Nigeria. As the pandemic persists, we cannot afford to see another 297% increase in reported domestic violence as we saw between March and April of 2020 in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja. The VAPP act also needs to be wholly adopted, as some states which have passed the act are significantly reducing punishments for violence against women and girls. There should be no modification or lessening of this act, we cannot afford for more women and young girls to lose their lives in vain with no justice whatsoever. It is time for accountability. We need to not only involve civil society but also the duty bearers. The main duty bearer here is the Government which should set up a proper social referral system within existing structures. We must call for more collaboration among states, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations as well as government agencies such as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons to expose and prosecute sexual offenders, and promote the implementation of VAPP across the remaining states. Therefore, today on behalf of all Nigerian women and girls, I would like to restate the demand for the domestication of the VAPP Act in all 36 States and the FCT to enable a nationally coordinated implementation strategy against GBV. Until all 36 states are on board, we will not be able to build standard services across the nation, which we need to respond to individuals, families and communities facing this crisis. Thank you to everyone who has joined the discussion today to commit to preventing gender-based violence in Nigeria and for your ongoing partnership in this area. I look forward to further discussions and, most importantly, joint and collaborative actions, together - to normalize and mainstream PSVI actions until ending gender-based violence is our standard and regular routine community of practice.
FROM December 4th, 2021
I was pleased to join the UNHCR at the 36 Million Solutions: Africa Private Sector Forum on Forced Displacement throughout the week. From my important high-level yet candid bilateral conversation with UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner, Kelly T Clements, to joining Michel Sidibé of the Africa Union Special Envoy for The African Medicine Agency, Dr. Githinji Gitahi - CEO Amref Health Africa, Diana Mulili - Chief Growth Officer at Xetova and Nancy Moloantoa of Open Society Foundation on the panel for Inclusive Health Systems - The Only Way, this week highlighted the importance of uniting Africa’s business and industry leaders with philanthropists, refugee change-makers, and the public sector when designing market-based approaches to leverage the potential and power of the 36 million solutions who are forcibly displaced across our continent. Africa hosts the largest number of forcibly displaced persons worldwide: 36 million. 36 million families and neighbours. 36 million customers and suppliers. 36 million innovators, entrepreneurs, and employers. The intimate forum and gathering hosted by the UNHCR was a unique opportunity to inspire and encourage African-led solutions to the issues of forced displacement across our continent. As an advocate for healthcare - I was pleased to join the panel for Inclusive Health Systems - The Only Way. Every person deserves the right to dignified healthcare, regardless of their migration status. Yet, health systems too often fail forcibly displaced people, who already face numerous obstacles in accessing high-quality care. COVID-19 has exposed the inequities in healthcare and the reality that its delivery cannot be separated from the unique economic, cultural and social circumstances of communities in need. African countries have historically opened their borders and hearts to families fleeing war, violence, conflict, or persecution. Countries that receive and host refugees, often for extended periods, make an immense contribution from their own limited resources to the collective good and to the cause of humanity. In Nigeria for example, we have 3 million people internally displaced and another 74,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Many of these people have been in this situation for years, and greater support and services are required to help them rebuild their lives. Along with this, we have a population of 206 million people with nearly half living below the poverty line. These numbers may give us insight, but they often fail to tell the full story of the dire situation that has befallen so many due to the lack of universal health care or access to healthcare that can allow people to live longer, increase their incomes, and lead to positive socio-economic gains for their families. The major constraint of our current system is that vulnerable people usually lack the funds to pay for healthcare. Health care financing in Nigeria is mainly through out of pocket payment, and most people cannot afford to pay. Another challenge we face is the quality of health care available in most rural communities. The system is very weak, even our best hospitals have poor infrastructure, with few properly trained personnel, very little equipment, and a lack of sustainable medications supply model. Combining both of these with a lack of education surrounding maternal health, creates a critical and urgent situation for many women, children and vulnerable people in Nigeria. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa has operated for close to 20 years with a set of 10 core rights-based principles to improve the health and wellbeing of childbearing women and their newborns. We believe that we must support a call to mobilise resources to deliver the same standard to the women and children of Nigeria, and refugee and displaced communities:
FROM November 30th, 2021
The marginalised can not continue to be penalised for circumstances beyond their control. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa joins Women in Global Health, and the World Health Organization member states and non-states in the timely and important discussions regarding the Pandemic Treaty this week. For the Treaty to strengthen pandemic prevention and responses, it must also recognise the consistent inequalities faced throughout COVID-19 and ensure equitability is highlighted. Gender equity in particular must be at the forefront of our post-pandemic rebuild. Creating a healthier, safer, and fairer world, means advocating for the most vulnerable through prioritizing human rights, gender mainstreaming, universal health system strengthening and improved funding mechanisms. As the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence continues, we have seen first-hand how the pandemic increased the care workload, obstructed access to sexual and reproductive health services, and increased violence for women and girls primarily. Yet, women’s experiences and voices continue to be marginalised. The WHO must promote gender parity and diversity in COVID-19 leadership. Women and girls in the Global South have been disproportionately impacted throughout the pandemic and this has penetrated into the healthcare system as well. Women make up 70% of the health workforce yet are still overlooked, with COVID-19 task forces globally only having 24% representation from women. Women must be participants in all stages of decision-making processes, and mainstream a gender perspective in the COVID-19 response and recovery. This extends to scientific advisor groups, panels and consultations as they have the first-hand experience to provide an insight that will design a resilient, accessible and quality care health system. This evidence-based policy making and advocacy, paired with enhanced data collection and analysis will enable better health and social outcomes to occur. These critical issues filter into establishing a human rights first approach. Equitable universality principles must be embodied throughout our future preparedness and response so that we can properly assess and provide support to infection and incidence. This includes collaboration with human rights and civil society groups in preparedness, as they are at the frontlines bearing the brunt of the epidemic lifecycle on the most vulnerable groups. A well-assessed treaty will improve human rights obligations while augmenting the existing international human rights law and standards. Currently, fewer than 6% of people in the African continent have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with health workers and vulnerable populations still waiting for their first dose. This is due to a lack of funding and inequitable access, which plays a critical role in the surveillance of emergent variants. We cannot ignore the hardest hit and most vulnerable populations during a public health emergency. Funding mechanisms must be expanded to reach low-income countries, possibly with a system in place for high-income countries to support low-income countries in an accountable manner. By the end of 2022, over 12 billion doses of vaccines will have been produced, enough to vaccinate the entire world, yet we still face such low-rates due to accessibility and information access issues in the Global South. We are exhibiting first-hand the global inequality that has led to a grossly uneven distribution of vaccines, vital healthcare tools and PPE which has made fragile health systems crumble throughout developing nations. To tackle this, the Treaty must commit to sharing knowledge, data, information, and resources to create a worldwide health system that is ready to respond to the next pandemic. This One Health approach will foster trust and accountability, allowing pandemic preparedness to become standard. Of all Wellbeing Africa Foundation programming across Nigeria, the 2 programs that were most prophetic of the skills and capacities needed to combat COVID-19 during the restrictions of socially distanced physical lockdowns, were the organic introduction of Mamacare360 and MaternalMonday Whatsapp Groups to continue the conversations in our Mamacare360 antenatal and post-natal classes, along with WASH For Wellbeing program, teaching clean hygiene to mothers and medical workers in HCF, and its counterpart Primary and Adolescent PSHE-WASH in Schools. These focused platforms were initiated in April 2018, as responsive commitments to both the UN Secretary General’s call for improved WASH, the WHO Resolution on Hygiene in Health Care Facilities, and the WBFA stark finding that only 22% of Delivery Rooms in Nigeria had direct access to a basin, soap, and clean water. As Covid-19 appeared, WBFA was positioned in 670 communities, to ramp up the key learnings for social behavioural change, right in the communities and households, schools and marketplaces where trusted learning needed to reach. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa continues in its quest to develop a concrete Nigerian-wide public health informed approach that looks at the factors and responds with key actions for individual women, children, their families and the schools and health facilities within their communities in which they live that make it more or less likely that vulnerability and adversity in childhood has a lasting impact on their lives. A holistic inclusive approach, that takes the community midwifery approach further into a school nurse-visitor information, education and learning approach, and a reporting index will address inequality and the broader causes of vulnerability which might otherwise be overlooked to support decision-making and prioritisation. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa is leading a Call-To-Action for: Implementation of Gender Mainstreaming Strategy: Vaccine Equity; Funding Stronger Healthcare Systems and Consistent Respect for Human Rights. Universal Health Coverage must be assessed by the states in Nigeria as primary health services should be accessible to all during all health crises. Women health workers are our global health security, they deserve better, they need better pay and leadership opportunities. As the pandemic persists they continue to be mentally exhausted and undervalued. For this Treaty to produce viable outcomes, it must recognize that our global health emergency responses cannot be constructed on the most vulnerable and marginalized women. It is clear that an equity-first approach will be needed to tackle these severe disparities, and those with a voice must advocate for that equity so that we may rebuild and re-envision a stronger healthier world.
FROM November 26th, 2021
I am delighted to start this year's 16 Days of Activism by advocating to the participants of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies NILDS, United Nations Development Program UNDP and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women UNWomen Capacity Building Workshop for Female Legislators and Female Politicians on Lawmaking and Lobbying, at Abuja. It is indeed a very timely initiative, as today, November 25th, marks the start of 16 Days of Activism and activities marked annually, to highlight Ending Violence Against Women and Girls. As a Pioneer Member and Steering Council Member of the UN Women’s African Women Leaders Network Initiative globally and in Nigeria respectively, I am thrilled that this workshop will inspire new energy and technical skills needed to accelerate working together for Gender Equality, namely: - Women’s Political Participation - Women’s Economic Empowerment - Women Peace And Security and Humanitarian Action - Ending Violence Against Women Thus, the enactment of gender-sensitive legislation and domestication of international conventions, statutes and promotion of women's participation in politics and governance in Nigeria is on the front burner of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls for a just and fair society (a pointer to SDG 5). Lack of political representation is a major cause of both gender inequality and generation inequality. Of all national parliaments at the beginning of 2019, only 24.3% of the seats were filled by women. As of June 2019, 11 Heads of State were women. Despite progress in this area over the years, women are still grossly underrepresented in government and the political process. This means that certain issues that female politicians tend to bring up- such as parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender equality laws and gender-based violence are often neglected. Regarding the target of generation equality, the Wellbeing For Women Africa Youth Voices Initiative's 2020 Wa Wimbi Report found that the political, social and economic dispensation in Africa is highly defined and structured whereby culture defines the socio-economic and political discourse. Furthermore, there are pockets of scenarios where leadership is passed from masculine generation to generation. Potentially, these situations can lead to conflicts and partisan control of public resources and access to opportunities. While these factors are not solely the causes of strife and conflict - where women suffer the most - they are a catalyst. Through human capital development especially for young people, there are opportunities to initiate and drive socio-economic processes to socially and economically empower young professional women. As a build-up to this action, the WBW Youth Voices Initiative engaged its youth partners to conduct a survey, the primary objective of which was to provide empirical data on probable bottlenecks faced by young women in access to and uptake of leadership and decision-making opportunities across Africa. The survey sought to: a) Collect and analyse cultural and socio-economic scenarios faced by young women in leadership and decision making spaces; b) Analyse the current employment market to identify professional opportunity trends where sustained and dignified professional engagements are attained based on merit; c) Document constraints and barriers faced by young and vulnerable women in the labour market; and, d) Provide an analytical review of the most viable scenarios that could help young women as beneficiaries. The study included a total of 239 participants both on and offline, there were 75 online respondents, 19 KII and 145 participants from 15 FGD. The study involved responses from 18 African countries namely Botswana, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Cameroon, DRC, Egypt, Ghana, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. According to this survey on the bottlenecks women face in leadership and governance, on a broad scale, most respondents find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership actions such as influence, merit, capacity and mental willpower to lead, organise and implement. The study analysis presented in this report confirms that presently, leadership and governance are dominated by men despite the existence of administrative and policy provisions in many organisations seeking to frontload women as equals in merit. Furthermore, the submissions by the survey respondents indicate that whilst there is a general push for women to take up leadership positions, as evidenced in access to leadership spaces (albeit limited), policy provisions and merit over gender among others, there are still overbearing social and cultural norms which seem to continually limit the spaces and counter strides made. Young women’s leadership is undermined in the civic space despite the advances in youth engagement over the years. The current configuration of youth organisations is not enough to ensure or sustain the effective leadership of young women in international development and any progress within youth spaces is still largely affected by the preferences of young men in power. Within the current global context, women are given promises of equal representation but often find the reins of power in the hands of others. To improve access to leadership and governance spaces in a demand-driven system in the context of development, it is imperative to involve women in all components of development programming. Institutions must recognise and take up this driving factor as an enabler to achieving equity and ensuring strategic opportunities for all. One of the core objectives at WBFA is advocating for gender equality with the acknowledgement that the status of women, children and families in Africa require improved resources, support, and advocacy. Our policy goals on women, girls, and gender development span various interventions with a core towards advocating for the right of every woman to leadership and political participation. This is achieved by promoting women’s leadership and participation in all sectors, ensuring that women are accorded equal opportunities and supported to lead and participate in politics either through elections or by appointments. It is for this very reason that my Wellbeing Foundation Africa is committed to its ongoing leadership of Nigeria Country Mobilisation for the ICPD25 International Conference on Population and Development Commitments towards the 3 zero’s of: 1) Zero Preventable Maternal Deaths, 2) Zero Unmet Need for Family Planning, and 3) Zero Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. While we commend the passage and implementation progress of the VAPP Legislation, tangential to these targets, there is a need to continue to work collectively towards the prevention of sexual violence in conflict (PSVI), and the domestication of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security. We must also redouble efforts towards the reintroduction and eventual passage of the Gender Equality and Opportunity Bill into law. Therefore, it is my hope that the participants at this 2-day event will leverage on knowledge gained to stimulate their interest more in lawmaking and lobbying and equip themselves with the technical capacity on legislations and domestication of international conventions and statutes with the desired outcomes of increasing women in politics and leadership positions to make positive impacts that will continue to make the world a better place.
FROM November 23rd, 2021
I am delighted to announce the launch of the field implementation component of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Nutrition International Scaling Up Zinc and LO-ORS project to combat diarrhoea in Kano and Sokoto states in Nigeria. The project is funded by the Government of Canada and seeks to increase timely care-seeking and treatment of diarrhoea with zinc and low-osmolarity oral rehydration salts. In partnership with the Ministries of Health in both states, my Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Nutrition International will target caregivers with messages promoting prompt care-seeking for children with diarrhoea and adherence to treatment with zinc and LO-ORS. As the implementing partner on the Wellbeing Foundation Africa-Nutrition International Scaling Up Zinc and LO-ORS Project in Kano and Sokoto states, I am delighted that this intervention is aptly taking place at a time when diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases are threatening the livelihoods of Nigerians, especially in the northwestern part. We are grateful to the Ministry of Health, State Primary Health Care Development Agencies and other ministries, departments and agencies within the states for their dedication and commitment to this project, and also to all the frontline health workers who are leading the charge to curb the menace of diarrhoea within northwestern Nigeria. The states will also receive technical and financial support to build the capacity of healthcare providers to treat diarrhoeal cases with zinc and LO-ORS and communicate with caregivers about the treatment, ensuring they can provide care for cases seen in health facilities or within the community. Nutrition International truly believes in enhancing child survival, and that scaling up zinc and LO-ORS to improve childhood diarrhoea treatment contributes heavily to that. Diarrhoea is preventable and we must focus on continuously improving our prompt health-seeking behaviour, while sustaining availability and access to quality zinc and LO-ORS in public health facilities in the states. The project has already trained nearly 200 health workers and administrators of selected primary and secondary health facilities in Kano and Sokoto states. By 2023, we are looking to increase the number of caregivers who seek prompt care for cases of childhood diarrhoea by an additional 2,238,439. Diarrhoea is a leading cause of malnutrition and death in children under the age of five, and malnutrition is also known to prolong episodes of diarrhoea and increase mortality. That is why it is essential for a project like this to be in place, training and retraining health workers on the integrated management of childhood illnesses to enhance the capacity of the health workers.
FROM November 16th, 2021
As we mark the second anniversary of the Nairobi Summit, stakeholders across the globe are firmly voicing their recommitment to the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action. A landmark moment, in which various interest groups came together in partnership, recognizes the accelerated efforts needed to make progress in gender equality, youth, political and community leadership, and innovation and data. This reinvigorated engagement launched at a challenging time, as only months later, the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout this period we have seen how crucial it is to immediately address various issues from the Summit, particularly in the realm of sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa prioritizes the most amplified issues from the summit; having a global impact that advocates for women, children and families, through empowering and educating frontline health workers while increasing accessibility to health care and proper hygiene. As a community stakeholder committed to the Summits re-emphasized themes, WBFA is committed to; zero unmet needs for family planning and services, zero preventable maternal and infant deaths, zero sexual and gender-based violence including early and forced marriage, as well as female genital mutilation. WBFA is doing so by advancing universal access to sexual and reproductive health, reinforcing the goal to end preventable maternal deaths by creating safe spaces, and empowering the younger generation to know their social, sexual and reproductive health and rights. WBFA is doing so through the implementation of various programs such as our Mamacare360 Community Midwifery Antenatal and Postnatal Education Program which reaches on average 3700 women per month across Nigeria and delivers improved health outcomes and empowerment through education for women to make informed health decisions. To date, the program has serviced over 200,000 women. WBFA’s Adolescent Skills and Drills PSHE WASH Program also promotes respectful rights and relationships, highlighting the need to end gender-based violence and harmful practices by providing safe space counselling and access to Sexual Assault Referral Centres which reach over 1000 adolescent girls, their educators and families each month. These are just a few of the many programs initiated by WBFA which reflect our commitment to ICPD 25. These measurable actions allow us to learn and reflect as an organization, but also on a global level as we work towards a gender-equal and healthy community across the globe. As WBFA actively works towards exceeding our goals, we want to promise that we will, and encourage our counterparts to, transparently report on progress made to fulfil these commitments. Open discourse and collaboration will be the only way to support one another and facilitate re-building back better from COVID-19 and reaching our longstanding goals. Accountability is key. WBFA also welcomes voices from all paths, as we need young and diverse perspectives in leadership to monitor the commitments made. This is our opportunity to build a stronger health system with a higher quality of care that is tailored to various groups. As the summit was non-binding, countries and stakeholders have a choice in choosing to support the Nairobi Statement in part, entirety or not at all. That is why emphasis needs to be put on the anniversary of the Nairobi summit, as meaningful follow-up and encouragement will ensure commitments remain in the forefront and can be done so in a timely and actionable manner. We are proud to witness and report on the progress that has been made, yet there are still millions of vulnerable women and girls around the globe waiting to see their promises be fulfilled. We must raise our voices and continue to march forward to create a systemic difference so equality and safety can prevail.
FROM November 9th, 2021
I am so pleased to usher in Gender Day at the COP 26 joint session with the start of the Reykjavík Global Forum - Women Leaders, chaired by the Head of WP Leaders, distinguished Prime Minister of Iceland and honourable Speaker of Parliament. Discussing the climate crisis through a gender lens has never been so pertinent. Gender Day affords us the opportunity to recognise, and celebrate, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in both climate policy and action.
NGOs such as my Wellbeing Foundation Africa, therefore, play a vital role in not only establishing their own mission and work but aiding vulnerable communities in adapting and understanding the effects of the climate crisis as it is interlinked with almost every aspect of life, particularly health care. Human lives and health are being impacted in a variety of ways, from a lack of clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply, and safe shelter. These challenges will only worsen if we do not act immediately. That is why WBFA will be working with our partners to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to; protect and restore ecosystems, build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives. Global political leaders need and must continue to work with NGOs to understand that inaction on climate will also set us back decades in the societal missions and advancements made by NGOs for those who are already marginalized and disproportionately affected.View this post on Instagram
FROM October 29th, 2021
I am delighted that my Wellbeing Foundation Africa has commenced its partnership project with Nutrition International and the Governments of Kano and Sokoto States in Scaling up Zinc and LO-ORS to Improve Childhood Diarrhoea treatment in Northern Nigeria. Childhood diarrhoea remains a threat to child survival in Nigeria; 10% of deaths in children under five are due to this disease. The country still records national prevalence as high as 13%. State-specific variations in prevalence of diarrhoea are also recognised; the prevalence in the north-western states is considerably higher at 20.7% in Kano, 18.6% in Katsina, and 21.7% in Zamfara. While the number of global under-five deaths dropped to its lowest point on record in 2019 – down to 5.2 million, from 12.5 million in 1990, there are fears that numbers could rise on the back of COVID-induced disruptions to child and maternal health services, recent estimates from UNICEF, indicate. Over the past 30 years, health services to prevent or treat causes of child death such as preterm, low birth weight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, as well as vaccination, have played a large role in saving millions of lives, added the agencies. Accelerating Frontline practices is an essential factor in improving health for all. In seeking to contribute to reducing the number of deaths due to diarrhoea among children under five In Nigeria, the project is providing both technical and financial support to Kano and Sokoto to address key factors associated with increased diarrhoea morbidity and mortality - supporting the promotion of prompt care-seeking for children with diarrhoea among caregivers as well as adherence to standard treatment (zinc and low-osmolarity oral rehydration solution [LO-ORS]). The WBFA is dedicated to implementing targeted technical and financial support to improve the capacity (knowledge, skill and attitude) of health care providers to provide quality zinc and LO-ORS and appropriate interpersonal communications for the treatment of all diarrhoea cases seen at health facility or community level service points. In addition, we aim, supported by Nutrition International, to improve the commitment of state actors, such as health managers and policy makers, to implement complementary drug revolving fund (DRF) schemes for effective availability and sustainability of health commodities, including zinc and LO-ORS.
FROM October 1st, 2021
FROM September 24th, 2021
Building Resilience Through Actionable Hope – To Recover from COVID-19, Rebuild Sustainable Systems, Respond to the Needs of the Planet, Respect the Rights of People, Replenish And Redeem The Promise Of Multilateralism At The Frontline, And At Scale
Download Her Excellency Toyin Saraki Global Office and Philanthropy and The Wellbeing Foundation UNGA76 Advocacy And Activity Statement here:The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be the most challenging period the world, and the global health and development community has seen since the Second World War. It’s given way to the new disturbing normal – deepening inequalities and vulnerabilities, decimating economies and plunging millions into extreme poverty. Yet we all agree that the world must prioritize a sustainable recovery, rooted in the 2030 Agenda, and supporting countries and communities as we work to rebuild systems shattered by the pandemic. The backdrop to this year’s 76th UN General Assembly, UN Global Compact, and the important Concordia Leadership Council and Concordia Summit is a world that feels fractured — just when we need to come together against the continued ravages of COVID-19, the accelerating climate emergency, unfolding humanitarian disasters, rising inequality, and much more. Fixing it will take bold leadership, brave choices, and sustained commitments. At UNGA, it means bringing together world leaders, civil society champions, young people, global businesses and many others to reinforce and reinvigorate our collective determination to solve our shared problems.
Our ongoing project with our global partner, Nutrition International has seen our program implementation model expand to Northern Nigeria where reported health indices represent the lowest and worst levels in the country. The WBFA ‘Scaling up Zinc and LO-ORS to Improve Childhood Diarrhoea Treatment’ programme which commenced in July 2021 in the two highest-burden of diarrheal disease localities, Kano State (the second most populous state in Nigeria after the megacity, Lagos) and Sokoto State - aims to redefine the health system services to sick children via improved availability and uptake of Zinc and low-osmolarity oral rehydration solution (LO-ORS) which are critical in the treatment of childhood diarrhoea. We advocate that Zinc reduces diarrhoea-specific mortality by 23% and LO-ORS decreases this mortality by an additional 84%3. For this reason, the World Health Organization recommends treatment with zinc and LO-ORS for the clinical management of acute diarrhea. Our objectives to improve the provision of appropriate information to caregivers and influencers, develop the capacity of and improve the supportive supervision for health workers, and the states to increase and sustain availability and access to zinc and LO- ORS commodities demonstrates our commitment to improving the survival rates and health outcomes of infants whose future should be protected.
Download Her Excellency Toyin Saraki Global Office and Philanthropy and The Wellbeing Foundation UNGA76 Advocacy And Activity Statement here: Keeping A Better World In View
FROM September 6th, 2021
[embed]https://youtu.be/fN7y4KEglIg[/embed] Earlier this week I spent precious time #withRefugees at the UNHCR Nigeria supported UNHCR Refugees settlement communities in Ogoja, Cross Rivers State. My first stop was Adagom where I was cheerfully welcomed by over 67,000 mothers, men and children once forced to flee, now residing in the Refugee Resettlement Community. Followed by an insightful discussion with the Women Leaders of both the refugee and wonderfully kind Adagom host communities. Adagom is a community full of vibrance and resilience but like so many other displaced communities, burdened with a lack of resources and basic provisions in health, education, and access to gainful livelihoods. [gallery link="none" size="large" ids="1570,1571,1569"] I am pleased that my Wellbeing Foundation Africa team, National Program Coordinator and Lead WBFA Community Midwife were on hand to deliver food boxes, dignity kits, education learning materials, and undertake our WBFA baseline needs assessment. We demonstrated our flagship MamaCare class, whilst imparting successful breastfeeding practices with the assistance of WBFA manuals and IEC material. There are more displaced peoples in Nigeria—over two million—than the populations of Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles and Cape Verde, combined. COVID-19 has affected such communities disproportionately, most especially the women and girls therein in need of maternal health support and timely antenatal care. We have to act fast to get these settlement communities back on track and ensure no woman, no expectant mother, no girl child is left behind. [gallery size="large" ids="1572,1573,1574"] These numbers within the global 82 million refugees globally often fail to tell the full story of the tragic situation that has befallen so many residing in Nigeria's North East, and Cross River, Benue, Taraba, and Akwa Ibom States. The scale of this situation in Nigeria will be a tragedy for our people and our economy if we fail to plan, provide and act, for on their behalf. They are our own brothers and sisters for whom we have shared responsibility to support and include in our existing programmes. That's why I joined hands with UNHCR, UNHCR Nigeria, and UNHCR Private Sector Partnerships who support such vulnerable communities across the continent and the world by protecting and empowering displace men, women, and youth and to promote social inclusion and foster good relationships with their local communities. The time is now to convene and inspire others towards action. I echo the words of the UN High Commissioner For Refugees that “solutions require global leaders and those with influence to put aside their differences, end an egoistic approach to politics, and instead focus on preventing and solving conflict and ensuring respect for human rights".The biggest achievement derived from the 1951 Geneva Convention itself, is that many of the challenges faced by IDP and Refugees are now categorised as international problems. In the same vein, individuals must remain exactly that - individuals; affording them a truly localised and personal approach to reintegration and community-level support. In doing so, we manage traumas correctly, minimise further displacement and ensure that all policies and societal practices reflect each citizen - by birth, heritage or displacement - right up until the last mile. I am encouraged by the learnings that private sector philanthropies and civil society can contribute in this journey, through collaborative efforts, to rethink and re-imagine the possibilities of donorship and of timely life-saving interventions for the millions of refugees and we must remember: no one is truly safe until everyone is safe. I am pleased to join UNHCR, partnering to ensure all refugees and displaced people have access to their basic human rights and dignities.
FROM August 13th, 2021
This is a moment for heightened urgency in addressing the investments and attention being paid to our public health systems in Nigeria, as globally. Deep inequities and unbalanced approaches to channelling much needed remuneration, respect and investments to prioritise our frontline force have been exaggerated since the onset of the Pandemic. The unnerving, recent announcement by Nigeria’s National Association of Resident Doctors public strike is the fourth work stoppage by medical residents since the pandemic began. As the backbone of our public health - health and care workers and CHWs have provided essential health services to communities with the least access to quality care, especially in remote and rural areas- accelerating the attainment of universal health coverage - despite inadequate attention being applied to facilitating decent work, safety, dignity, fair pay and equal leadership they deserve - as the key mutual and multi-directional duty of care. I remain deeply concerned especially that the state of primary healthcare centres across Nigeria, and how the frontline potential for PHC's being the first port of call for serious injury and disease, a barrier between life and death for many - is being underutilized. For years, Nigeria, like many other lower-middle income countries, has struggled to address health worker shortage lagging far behind the WHO suggested doctor-patient ratio of 1:600. With the 19,000 protesting medical residents making up the bulk of health care workers at government hospitals throughout Nigeria, also staffing the majority of the government-run treatment facilities for COVID-19 - their absence at this crucial time is an alarming concern. This is a period that calls for whole system support as a duty of care - and a greater push for resources, resilience, replenishment towards recommended ratios which of course integrates regular remunerations. Taking learnings from paradigm shifts recorded in countries such as India, whose medical education system has been able to pull through a major turnaround, successfully doubling the numbers of MBBS graduate (modern medicine training) positions during recent decades - it is not enough to fixate on the excuse of doctor scarcity. As we move forward there is an urgent need to focus on augmenting the fiscal capacity as well as developing much needed infrastructure both in public and private health sectors toward addressing pressing healthcare needs of our growing population.
FROM June 23rd, 2021
COVID-19 has enabled global citizens to hold a greater understanding of the integral role WASH plays in public health, and our lives at large. It has caused policymakers, advocates and donor to review a culture that previously undermined the relationship we all had with WASH and disease prevalence. The current data sadly shows that Nigeria carries over 20% of our African continent’s NTD burden.
FROM June 10th, 2021
Bearing the regal approval and presence of His Royal Majesty, Oba (Dr.) Abdulfatah Aremu Oyeyinka Aromire, Oyegbemi II, The Ojora of Ijora Kingdom and Iganmu Lands, I appreciate the honour bestowed upon me by His Royal Majesty, Oba Abdulwasiu Omogbolahan Lawal, Abisogun II, The Oniru of Iru Land, who conferred my humble self with the recognition of being appointed and installed as the Erelu Bobajiro of Iru Land on 10th June, 2021, during the week long 1st Year Coronation Anniversary Celebration of His Royal Majesty Abisogun II, Oniru of Iru Land. I congratulate Kabiyesi Oba Omogbolahan Lawal on the first anniversary of his coronation, and all chieftaincy honorees dedicated to the visionary mission to bring meaningful progress and development to Iru Land, supported by the Iru Land Oba-In-Council Cabinet of Chiefs. I am grateful for the inestimable love and support of my Royal Father, The Ojora of Ijora Kingdom and Iganmu Lands, Kabiyesi, His Royal Majesty, Oba (Dr) Abdulfatah Aremu Oyeyinka Aromire, Oyegbemi II, His Council of Chiefs, and the good people of the Ijora Kingdom and Iganmu Lands for honoring my homecoming to Ijora Oloye with the highest privilege of Apesin Ceremonial Procession. I equally congratulate His Royal Majesty, Oba (Dr) Abdulfatah Aromire, Oyegbemi II, Apasa Kekeniju, on the 27th Anniversary of his purposeful and successful continued reign as The Ojora of Ijora Kingdom and Iganmu Lands. I am appreciative of the amity, kinship and prayers bestowed towards me by Royal Stools and Royal Families across the length and breadth of Nigeria and beyond, most notably and especially, the gracious presence of Their Royal Majesties, The Amanyanabo Ebitimi Banigo, King of Okpoama Kingdom, Brass, Bayelsa State, his lovely Queen Pelebo Banigo, and their Royal Cabinet. I also appreciate the presence of The Erelu Kuti IV, HRH Princess Abiola Dosunmu, and the attendance of the Ilorin Emirate Princes, personally and as the delegated envoys of His Royal Majesty, The Emir of Ilorin, Mai Martaba, Dr. Ibrahim Sulu Gambari CFR. I recognize and appreciate the presence and attendance of Their Excellencies, Former Governors, Senator Liyel Imoke of Cross River State, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, Alhaji Shaba Lafiaji of Kwara State, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Beere 'Derin Osoba of Ogun State, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State, current and former Distinguished Senators, Honorable Members of the House of Representatives and State House of Assembly, current and former Honorable Ministers, current and former States Commissioners and Local Government Functionaries, national and states political parties functionaries and members, and the supportive presence of women and youth leaders, groups, cooperatives and associations. I am forever thankful for the unflinching and loving support and encouragement of my dear husband, His Excellency, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, MBBS, CON, The Waziri Ngeri of Ilorin Emirate,13th President of the Senate and Chair, 8th Session of the National Assembly 2015~2019, together with the blessings of my lovingly respected parents, Their Royal Highnesses, The Otunba Adekunle Ojora OFR, CON, and The Erelu Odu’a Ojuolape Ojora, MON. I appreciate too, the personal visit, recognition and kinship of His Imperial Majesty, Alaiyeluwa, Arole Oodua, Olofin Adimula,The Ooni of Ife, Dr. Adeyeye Enitan Babatunde Ogunwusi, Ojaja II. With utmost respect and gratitude, I appreciate the attendance of my personal friends, international development and private sector partners, my immediate and extended family, and the good citizens of both Lagos and Kwara States. who honoured me with the joy and privilege of their distinguished presence at the Traditional Iwuye Ceremony at The Oniru’s Palace, Iru Land, and the Ijora Oloye Homecoming Apesin Procession at The Ojora of Ijora Palace, Ijora Kingdom. I pray for the light of knowledge, wisdom and peace for all, and journey mercies to our respective homes. Amen.
FROM May 31st, 2021
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK6FtsOnKJw[/embed] I am delighted to join our partners, the Liverpool of Tropical Medicine, Johnson and Johnson Global Health, the Kwara State Government and all stakeholders today as we disseminate the results and impact of our 5-year program to improve the availability and quality of maternal newborn care services delivered by health workers in Kwara State. From the first moment I witnessed the impact of hands-on anatomically delivered simulation model training globally, I knew that building a community of well-practiced multi-disciplinary delivery teams could address the local frontline barriers to improving care services rapidly and whole-heartedly, at both the health system and societal level, in Nigeria. Thus, in 2015, my WBFA leapt at the golden opportunity to partner together with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, CMNH-LSTM Nigeria and Johnson and Johnson Global Health to up-skill health care practitioners in the area of certificated Emergency Obstetric Care Skills and Drills. The main drive of the project pioneered across Kwara State, Nigeria, was to equip doctors, nurses and midwives so as to recalibrate a collective team and introduce the skills needed to overcome these obstetric emergencies. With hopes to improve maternal health significantly, we have continued to identify and lift away the barriers that limit access, availability and quality of maternal and newborn health services. 80% of all maternal deaths are as a result of five complications; all of which can- be managed by adequately trained healthcare professionals. Haemorrhages, sepsis, eclampsia, complications of abortion and obstructed labour are among the common attributional factors of maternal and neonatal complications, but they also contribute to mortality and morbidity, too. The introduction of specialist professional and regular training acts presents as a form of diligence while reinvigorating frontline workforce autonomy. As we focused our intervention on local government areas within the state with the largest population of women of reproductive age, we landed in Kwara located in north-central Nigeria, It’s 3 million inhabitants and an estimated 120,000 births per year, coupled with my own personal state-centred nostalgia and birth experience, made it the perfect beginning for such a dissemination of key skills and learning. Through a partnership with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and with support from Johnson and Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust, Wellbeing Foundation Africa implemented a project to increase the availability and quality of care for mothers and babies at public and private healthcare facilities in Kwara State, Nigeria. Having sustained the early and encouraging impact being made by the introduction of EmONC skills and drills training, and expanding the program in 2018, we continued by paying joint advocacy visits to the Kwara State House of Assembly to advocate at the sub-national level for the training espoused by our EmONC program which was pioneering sustainable change across 21 public HCFs in the state. I hope that our strong evidence now demonstrates that anatomical models based skills and drills training must be recognised as a professional education curriculum requirement, and fast. As we conclude the 5th year of this pioneering introduction in Kwara State, we now have convincing proof of a concept beyond suitable for whole nation deployment. The results are clear, we’ve recorded a 38% reduction in facility stillbirth rate since 2015, and we know that the improvements and upskilling in Kwara can, must and will inspire change across the country. I thank our partners, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s Centre For Maternal and Newborn Health, and Johnson and Johnson Global Health, for the trust and confidence invested in the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and United Nations Every Woman Every Child Commitments to the Global Strategy on Women and Childrens’ Health, which powered our partnership, and their arrival to Nigeria to implement such a significant program. I beam with pride and with a grateful heart at the readiness demonstrated by a robust frontline, and look forward to the actualisation of a continuum of care that will contribute to the total zeroing of maternal and neonatal deaths in Nigeria. It is often said that the true test of innovation and impact is sustainable local engagement, so I am delighted that the partnership was able to establish skills laboratories and centres of excellence at selected facilities. I congratulate our partners and the National Council of Nursing and Midwifery as the program impact progresses, again supported by Johnson and Johnson Global Health, on the strategic and intentional path towards national pre-service training scale. Towards holistically aligning and guaranteeing mothers access to higher quality respectful maternity care, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa continues to strengthen, deepen and widen its independent community midwifery-led Mamacare Antenatal and Postnatal Education Program, educating expectant and nursing mothers, ensuring they access and achieve the WHO recommended 8-visits throughout their childbirth journey - with the confidence of knowing that their professionally qualified delivery attendants are upskilled to deliver a safe, healthy and therefore happy outcome. We must continue on the quest to lift and leap over barriers, to deliver new life safely, and ultimately save millions more lives. Thank you all. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhMUE5VZMZc[/embed]
FROM May 5th, 2021
FROM April 19th, 2021
I am delighted to welcome and participate in the first day of the Institutionalising Community Health Conference , which focuses on Accelerating PHC at the Community Level. For many years, I successfully led Nigeria’s CSO PHC Revitalization Support Group which advocated successfully for Nigeria's redemption of the Abuja Declaration Pledge of 1% Consolidated Revenue Fund to Health. The 2018 Basic Healthcare Provision Fund BHCPF HUWE, Comprehensive Community Healthcare has remained a core target of my Wellbeing Foundation Africa's mission, vision and actions ever since. By addressing the wider factors that may delay or hinder the holistic delivery of Community Health Management and Quality, enables us to place a strategic lens on how optimal health outcomes, and increased equitable access to care can, and should remain a priority. Globally, when we demonstrate an intentional, collective and results-based commitment to the facilitation of Universal Health Coverage and a quantifiable delivery of a Continuity of Care, we are able to actualise equal access to health care, move into promoting a truly universal and affordable healthcare system, and most importantly, place quality at the heart of community care - for any and all. It is important to galvanise funding and action in order to strengthen primary care access and in order to keep essential public health services functioning. How do we succeed in doing so? By ensuring that the primary conversations held ahead of any disbursement, allocation, policy creation or protocol implementation is being had with the most remote and vulnerable people in mind - and within view. This is how we collectively maintain our social and civic responsibility, as well as keeping the integrated health services of every community alive. Multi-sectoral policy and action must reflect and empower the very people and communities it is formed to serve, and the health and wellbeing of said individuals is the effective and most precedential place to begin - and continue. For me, strengthening localised approaches to UHC, means we can successfully begin the transition into delivering community health coverage (CHC) - a journey where the task and charge is to minimise discrimination, strengthen and revive strained approaches to cultural sensitivity, and straighten the pathway to putting the ‘U’ in universalism. We must increase targeted and inclusive investments and make the road to care more generally accessible - starting with Maternal and neonatal health. When we recognise the importance of EmONC training, facilitation and care - including displaced persons and refugees - we make the case for equitable access even stronger. Factors such as malnutrition, language barriers, no fixed address and underlying health / obstetric conditions place these women and neonates within a higher risk category and makes them more prone to complications; preconception, antenatally, intrapartum and postnatally. What then is the purpose of Institutionalizing Community Health? A revival; a call to action that requires true, palpable and equitable action to take place.
FROM April 9th, 2021
It is time to build a fairer, healthier world. It is time to build back better If the global COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that our basic human rights and access to decent health and care is far from being a lived reality for millions of people around the world. Timely, optimal and affordable healthcare which is facilitated to an appropriate quality and standard, is often a dream for the 1.8 billion men, women and children who face appalling conditions inside hospitals and local health clinics. The problems they often face? A lack of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) among others. Today, 50% of healthcare facilities in Least Developed Countries lack even basic water services - a resource and a solution in tandem, that if provided, would both cure and prevent a number of complications, illnesses and deaths. We cannot actualise health equity if we do not consider and prioritise the role and place of adequate WASH across any and all facilities. In 2019, my Wellbeing Foundation Africa committed to training 500 healthcare workers and educating 35,000 pregnant and nursing mothers across Nigeria on hand and personal hygiene practices by 2020. We also committed to advocating for improved WASH structures in healthcare facilities in 2019 and 2020 to enable healthcare workers in Nigeria to perform their duties effectively - a timely initiative which I firmly believe ingrained the practice’s importance in the hearts of Nigeria’s women and families just in time for the pandemic. We are proud to be part of the 100 global commitments to WASH in Healthcare Facilities made over the last 3 years, driving a rally cry to transform this "neglected crisis" within global health into a global health movement with Global Water 2020 and Global Health Council. In the words of Dr. Maria Neira, Director of Public Health and Environment at the World Health Organization, "a healthcare facility without WASH is not a healthcare facility." I join UN Secretary General Guterres, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros, UNICEF Executive Director Fore, heads of state and First Ladies, Ministers of Health, Vatican officials, the Dalai Lama and so many more in a global call for funding, technical assistance, research, training, maintenance and advocacy. WASH is an essential service and progress to get it into healthcare facilities will be among the most critical global health advances we can make in our journey to equal health for all. Crowning the 2021 World Health Care Worker Week by lending my solidarity and by commending, honouring and celebrating our global frontline, who championed the importance of WASH through aseptic techniques when facilitating care, by committing to WASH long before the global pandemic, thoroughly during the height of the waves, and hopefully so, going forward. Thank you. #WorldHealthDay # WASHinHCF #WASHWednesday
FROM April 1st, 2021
I’m delighted to join WHO in welcoming its 2021-2030 Neglected Tropical Diseases Roadmap, and anticipate the emergence of the renewed Global Strategy for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: a road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021−2030 was prepared through an extensive global consultation pursuant to decision EB146(9) of the Executive Board at its 146th session in February 2020 that culminated in the endorsement of the document by the Seventy-third World Health Assembly in November 2020. The road map sets global targets and milestones to prevent, control, eliminate or eradicate 20 diseases and disease groups as well as cross-cutting targets aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. Three foundational pillars will support global efforts to achieve the targets: accelerate programmatic action (pillar 1), intensify cross-cutting approaches (pillar 2) and change operating models and culture to facilitate country ownership (pillar 3). The disease summaries annexed to the road map detail the current epidemiological status and burden of disease, core strategic interventions and progress towards the 2020 targets of the previous road map. The targets, sub-targets and milestones for 2030, and the critical actions required to achieve them, were used to generate the evidence in the road map document endorsed by the World Health Assembly. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa serves as an example of the powerful role that community facilitation of WASH plays in successfully inhibiting all 20 NTDs; from outright prevention and effective treatment, to reducing the prevalence of many more by between 33 to 70 percent (including intestinal worms which half a billion school children are at risk of.) Ensuring that access to WASH is made truly equitable remains an ongoing priority - the global strides taken to end all of the 20 NTDs mentioned within the roadmap will accelerate this much needed equity. As we continue to underpin WASH in every Covid-19 response worldwide, we further strengthen and reiterate its importance, and in so doing, place greater value on water as a resource greatly required by every girl, boy, woman, man and child. We must embrace a multilateral approach across a plethora of sectors, and join WHO in reiterating the importance of increased and targeted investments and global awareness raising strategies that highlight the reach and impact of collective action now.
FROM March 24th, 2021
Every day, nearly 4000 people lose their lives around the world to Tuberculosis. That’s over 160 people an hour and at least 2 people every minute. The clock is ticking and the priority remains to accelerate preventative action globally, to address health risks and social determinants of the disease nationally, and to further promote access to #UHC at the subnational and local levels to end TB. According to the World Health Organisation's 2020 Global TB Report, in 2019, 440,000 people fell ill with TB in Nigeria and 155,000 avoidable death certificates were attributed to this deadly disease. As at 2019, TB treatment coverage stood at 27% - a far cry from the 2025 target of 90% operational target to end TB; although promising, the treatment success rate was 87%. People can and do recover - but, we must do more and do better to detect, prevent, treat and support our communities. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa team works daily to improve RMNCAH+N - alongside prevention, detection, treatment, and support which provides the pathway to achieving the vision of ending Tuberculosis by the year 2030. Last year, through collaborating with Nigeria's National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Program (NTBLCP), we visited health facilities and communities in the FCT and Nassarawa state, to health and care workers at the front of the frontline fight against the disease. During a lecture regarding the spread of TB in Nigeria led by our WBFA Abuja Mission Lead Dr Otun Adewale, Dr. Ogedengbe Babatunde, Provost Divine Jubilation College of Health Technology for Masaka, Nasarawa State shared, “it is sad to learn that Nigeria is being hit the worst in Africa and 5th in the world when it comes to TB. It’s even harder to hear that the largest impact is attributed to children, women of reproductive age and people living with HIV.” [caption id="attachment_1516" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Dr. Ogedengbe Babatunde, Nassarawa State[/caption] His conclusions further emphasise the need for targeted educational efforts, and empowerment of people - before they become patients. I commend every effort made by my own foundation’s frontline staff, and our global health heroes, and will continue to call for whole-system support for professionals and patients alike. We must continue to focus our progress in the direction of uplifting frontline morale, devising authentic and targeted approaches taken to maintaining their own health and wellbeing at the most localised level. We can do this by ensuring that equipment and PPE are made available and investments and donations are made in the direction of training and continued up-skilling. A further and key component in addition to increased donorship is that the actualisation of Universal Health coverage and health security are closely interlinked. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, refers to Universal Health Coverage as a “political choice, and that it is the responsibility of every country and national government to pursue it.” In Nigeria and in many other countries, he is also right to point out that health security and universal health coverage are closely interlinked. Public campaigns and mobilisation must seek to educate all individuals and raise awareness, so that early detection and prevention are possible. While resources may be scarce, innovative and strategic management is key to overcome structural hurdles. These are the practical steps we can take as the clock turns. Together, and even in the mammoth shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, we can achieve zero TB-related deaths and save lives, before the clock runs out. Wishing you a targeted and more progressive #WorldTBDay.
FROM March 20th, 2021
I am both horrified and saddened by the atrocities and breaches of human rights reported as presently occurring in the Ethiopian province of Tigray. Following many years of the country’s collaborative attempts to recalibrate societal attitudes and behaviours, by promoting unity and tolerance for all persons, we are today, met with the devastating news and evidence of inexplicable acts of harm and violence towards women and girls. War is the destructive debasing of a united people - but to then fall victim to rape is a devastating low of sexual violence in conflict, in a war which unfairly divides and deprives humanity of dignity and autonomy. Cowardly and inhumane crimes such as these must be dealt with and stamped out, fast - and appropriately. I am urging for government and policymakers, people of power and community members to speak up for the application of United Nations Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and the prevention of sexual violence in conflict. Perpetrators should be identified and reprimanded swiftly and appropriately.
FROM March 8th, 2021
FROM March 7th, 2021
FROM January 30th, 2021
This World NTD Day, the Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) community is further shining a light on the critical role that access to clean water and sanitation plays in the prevention of these illnesses. The just-launched World Health Organization (WHO) NTD road map is a clear indication that tides and times are changing, with a much needed focus being placed on the need for increased incorporation of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). According to the CDC, 100 percent of low-income countries are simultaneously affected by at least five of the 20 parasitic, bacterial, viral and protozoan infections grouped together as NTDs, and 149 countries and territories are affected by at least one NTD. 1.7 billion people worldwide live with these diseases that deform bodies, blind and kill, disrupt children’s education, limit lifetime productivity; and ultimately traps families and communities in cycles of poverty that contribute to crippling economies. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa serves as an example of the powerful role that the facilitation of WASH plays in successfully inhibiting all 20 NTDs; from outright prevention and effective treatment, to reducing prevalence of many more by between 33 to 70 percent (including intestinal worms which half a billion school children are at risk of.) Except... three billion people do not have access to water in their home. 900 million children go to schools without accessible handwashing facilities, and in the battlegrounds of disease itself, nearly 2 billion patients and healthcare staff must rely on healthcare facilities without water where care is provided. Sadly, access to WASH is that neglected. I believe and continue to demonstrate that the solution for combatting NTD’s starts and ends with WASH – a message that the onset of the global pandemic successfully communicated to members of the NTD community. The global health focus must continue to shift from solely reflecting treatment as the primary solution, and embrace the power of prevention through WASH. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused policymakers, global health advocates and donors to step away from a culture that previously undermined the relationship between WASH and disease prevalence. For a fifth year in a row, last year one billion people were treated for NTDs. While this is extraordinary outreach, it begs us to question how much of that suffering could have been prevented all together if children weren’t drinking intestinal worm-laden water and women weren’t irreversibly blinded at four times the rate of men by flies thriving in open waste? Despite excellent work being done to bring needed attention to these 20 diseases that attack the most vulnerable, and the efforts to get medications to them, the economic toll remains high and the human suffering remains devastating. This is no small problem and my country, Nigeria, is a case in point. According to WaterAid, 95 percent of healthcare centers in Nigeria are without basic WASH provisions, as well as 79 percent of all households. It is both alarming, and no surprise, that in a country where the majority of its citizens lack WASH and ranks first among nations in open defecation, half of its population—an estimated 100 million people—are at risk for at least one NTD. Nigeria carries 25 percent of Africa’s entire NTD burden. In 2013, the Federal Ministry of Health sought to reduce NTD morbidity and mortality, including by scaling-up WASH and other interventions—a step in the right direction. Guinea worm has been eliminated in Nigeria with a dramatic decline in three other NTDs (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, and trachoma which causes irreversible blindness). But Nigerians are far from NTD-free and even farther from having the water and sanitation they deserve. One of the goals of my organization, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), is to improve health outcomes for women, children, and infants. We are committed to improving and increasing access to WASH in healthcare facilities, schools and communities across Nigeria, in a bid to reduce and eventually eradicate the prevalence of NTDs. WBFA’s team of midwives, in partnership with Unilever Lifebuoy Nigeria and Sightsavers, have reached more than two million children at-risk of NTDs, all while improving the education and hygiene practices. These school-based efforts reinforced in children, their families and communities the importance of prioritising WASH interventions, including handwashing with soap. The new WHO NTD road map is a much welcomed northern star. For the first time, there is a global target for WASH that countries must meet over the next 10 years – a solidified set of directions that will mark long-term change at each juncture. A companion strategy on integrating WASH will follow later this spring and making way for new collaboration calls for investments, programming and policies to assure universal and sustainable WASH coverage in NTD endemic areas, otherwise, we risk losing the gains made in reducing NTDs over this past decade and into the future. COVID-19 has ushered in greater understanding of the integral role WASH plays in public health. It is fair to say, that unacceptable WASH conditions not only fan the flames of COVID-19 where people cannot adequately wash their hands, they contribute to many less infamous but pervasive diseases that cause great harm, like, NTDs. At a time when the world is focused on global health, the NTD community is offering important leadership that I hope will encourage many other global health efforts to stop neglecting what is the singular foundation upon which to build better health. About the Author: Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki is Founder/President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA). She is a former regional First Lady and Nigerian philanthropist who has spent two decades as a global advocate on behalf of women. She is a former two-term Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives and a Special Advisor to the Independent Advisory Group of the WHO’s Regional Office for Africa. @ToyinSaraki
FROM January 29th, 2021
Reflecting on the challenge of reinforcing and replenishing community-centred care during covid-19.personal experiences that structured my philanthropy, to applying learning and knowledge everyday I continued to take every opportunity to advocate for better maternity and health conditions of women, newborns, children and adolescents, and my Wellbeing Foundation Africa reached over 96,000 families, and 62,800 frontline health workers - even during the pandemic. Armed with decades of frontline experience and informed by the everyday stories of the beneficiaries of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, I am guided by the core themes of WASH, improving the social determinants of health and wellbeing, poverty alleviation, economic empowerment, promoting global public health advances, the rise of women and girls, and harnessing the promise of technology which underpin my broader goal and that of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, in working to reduce maternal and newborn deaths (SDG 3.1 and 3.2). I continue to advocate for greater innovation in tackling pressing contemporary topics such as beating non-communicable diseases, improving access to STEM education, maintaining the momentum behind the women’s equality movement, and the call for radical new ways of rebuilding sustainable economies and cleaner environments. As we navigate the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to prioritise our targets to end hunger and malnutrition through our Stronger Together collaborations to improve the SDGs. I reflect on 2020 by expressing my appreciation for the Trustees, Global Advisory Council, Vice President and entire Wellbeing Foundation Africa management and frontline teams in Nigeria and Ghana. Our consistent purpose in implementing our mission to end preventable deaths of mothers and children, improving nutritional outcomes, increasing access to WASH, supporting families through the reproductive health and education journeys, promoting gender equity for all, is actualised - daily. The 2021 Year Of Health And Care Workers finds us in our 17th year of dedicated philanthropic focus, extensive frontline programmatic actions and significant global, national and sub-national partnerships. I am pleased to share the 2020 Global Office & Philanthropy Annual Review.
FROM December 31st, 2020
We acknowledge and appreciate the support of all respected and esteemed friends and associates from all walks of life, including many others that we may have forgotten to mention. Perhaps you sent a lovely card, or sat quietly in a chair, perhaps you sent beautiful flowers. If so, we saw them there. Perhaps you sent or spoke kind words and prayers, as any friend could say; perhaps you were not there at all, just thought of us that day. Whatever you did to console the heart, we thank you so much, whatever the part. Your kindness provided a soothing balm to the tragedy that Prince Adedapo’s sudden departure represents to us. Adedapo was our warrior Prince, our symbol of courage, bravery, valour and peace, who has gone to meet our ancestors. It is within our sober knowledge and wisdom that in every sunshine, a little rain must fall. We thank you for standing by us in our time of sorrow and we pray that Almighty God will continue to bless you all. Respectfully, and with grateful appreciation, Adeyinka Adekunle Ojora and Toyin Ojora Saraki On behalf of the Ojora Royal Family of Lagos.
FROM December 12th, 2020
The Ojora Family of Lagos sadly regrets to inform of the death of our dearly beloved son, brother, uncle and father, Omo-Oba Adedapo Adelanke Abdulfatah Ojora on Friday 11th December, at his Ikoyi, Lagos residence. We are grateful to the Lagos State Police Command for immediately commencing an investigation into the circumstances of his death - the outcome of which we await. As we mourn our irreparable and devastating loss, we appreciate the condolence messages and prayers that we have received, and seek your understanding that the family be allowed to grieve in private. Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course. We ask that you continue to pray for the repose of Adedapo's soul. Amen.
FROM December 10th, 2020
It’s time to put the ‘move’ in movement; assessing the Role of Nigeria’s Multi-Disciplinary Health Response in Identifying, Establishing & Delivering Interventions in Cases of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) On Thursday December 10th the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) held its innovative #EndViolence Webinar. The well attended and highly discursive event was the culmination of the United Nations (UN) 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) which took place from November 25th to December 10th. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s commitment to ending gender-based violence and harmful practices as per the SDG’s three zeroes, extends beyond childbearing women at health facilities, and daily transcends into teaching our Adolescent Skills and Drills PSHE curriculum in schools across Nigeria. Our commitment here is to teaching adolescents what is deemed a healthy relationship and how to spot and respond to abuse including child marriages in a safe and trusted authentic space. Our health workers also seek to provide adolescents with personal social and health education on sexual and reproductive health and rights. The webinar brought together healthcare practitioners, midwives, policymakers, WBFA staff and those in the field of broadcast media/journalism with the objective of introducing them to WBFA’s newly developed protocol for recognising, referring and aiding victims of violence against women and girls whilst also identifying areas of co-operation to combat the growing cases of GBV in Nigeria. Speakers on the day parted with a multitude of knowledge, expertise and experiences which included the keynote address by the Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation HE Toyin Saraki, Dr Otun Adewale Olalekun, Abuja state team lead, WBFA, Dr Muna Abudullah, Health System Specialist at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Fati Abubakar a renowned photojournalist from Maiduguri, Borno State and Aisha Salaudeen, a multimedia journalist with CNN International. Throughout all our work, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa promotes and achieves the WHO’s recommendations on how countries can improve quality of care in their health facilities and prevent maternal and newborn deaths, based on its standards for improving quality of maternal and newborn care in health facilities, and even before a woman with child arrives - as our accountability policy and targets - and we deliver this through our investment in community midwifery, localising care: 1) Pregnant women should receive the right care, at the right times 2) Newborns should receive essential care immediately after birth 3) Small and sick babies should be well cared for in a facility 4) All women and newborns must receive care that prevents hospital-acquired infections 5) Health facilities must have an appropriate physical environment 6) Communication with women and their families must be effective and respond to their needs 7) Women and newborns who need referrals can obtain them without delay 8) No woman should be subjected to harmful practices during labour, childbirth, and the early postnatal period 9) Health facilities need well-trained and motivated staff consistently available to provide care- 10) Every woman and newborn should have a complete, accurate, and standardized medical record. Addressing the silent pandemic of violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the cardinal focal points of WBFA’s engagement and policy strategy. According to UN Women, one in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner. Further studies estimate that in Africa, between 23 to 49% of pregnant women experience physical, sexual and emotional violence from an intimate partner during their pregnancy. There has been an increase in reports of gender based violence cases in all six geopolitical zones in Nigeria since the pandemic began but a lack of systematic data collection and a political/cultural system that favours the accused rather than the victim has meant that indices of violence against women continue to grow. This gave added importance to WBFA’s #EndViolence Webinar. The theme of the webinar was ‘Assessing the role of the multidisciplinary team in recognising, reporting and ultimately, reprimanding perpetrators in cases of VAWG’. The speakers actively discussed and detailed their roles as stakeholders in providing intervention plans for survivors and victims. H.E Toyin Saraki in her keynote speech detailed the intervention programmes of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa via their Wellbeing Midwives who have been trained to spot the early warning signs of a GBV victim, whilst the foundations Mamacare classes have remained a point of communication, community and safety for women throughout their pregnancy. Dr Abudullah described the tireless work of the UNFPA’s advocacy efforts in Africa in the areas of data gathering and analysis, increased training of healthcare workers to tackle the rising cases of GBV and by building a referral pathway system for the safe reporting of GBV victims. Photojournalist Fati Abubakar gave a candid insight into her work which has seen her go into the epicentre of the Boko Haram scourge & detail through a visual medium the tragedy taking place in north east Nigeria. She emphasised the importance of visualisation which gives strength to the story of the victim. Journalist Aisha Salaudeen, helped participants to understand the variety of ways to help illuminate the story of GBV cases, emphasising that news agencies must ensure not only the safety of the victim when describing their travails but also to adhere to a code of conduct to protect the dignity of survivors of GBV whilst also telling their story with empathy. Dr Otun Olalekun provided a thorough case study of the ongoing advocacy projects and Initiatives the WBFA are currently conducting in the fight against GBV. This includes the creation of the community based adolescent program which helps teach young girls about GBV and how they can protect themselves and the continuation of the far reaching MamaCare program which has educated and engaged midwives and health workers in over 40 different facilities throughout Nigeria in the areas of S/GBV. The webinar provided a discursive platform for a plethora of professionals, advocates, health workers and policy makers to engage in an issue of great importance. It was resolved that collective efforts will be undertaken to engage key stakeholders in tackling S/GBV whilst focusing on enhancing frontline efforts, aiding security and shadowing facilitation and strengthening abuse referral processes. When I launched the Wellbeing Foundation Africa Global Foundation For Elimination of Domestic Violence by way of the Peace One Day collaboration back in 2012, I was on a trajectory towards what is today, the actualisation of my commitment to the #ICPD25 three zeros; zero unmet need for contraception; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. Since then, my commitment to #endingviolence has remained a daily priority, and is personified through my Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s community midwives. The continuum of care offered by way of the #Mamacare360 maternity programs, and every educator and practitioner’s efforts to remain working in tandem with the next generation of young men and women and their families through PSHE to tackle and contribute to the lessening of these dire figures remains both critical and crucial. As we unite to fund, respond, prevent and collect the key evidence and expertise to end this ongoing silent pandemic, I remain resolute in advocacy and actions towards recognising and championing human rights, safety, protection and justice to #endVAWG.
FROM November 25th, 2020
The most powerful way for an advocate to authenticate her message, is to remain at the heart of the demographic requiring its voice to be heard, but equally so, to join forces with other committed voices. My mission to confirm collective needs, develop solutions and provide for society's most vulnerable citizens means galvanising action and joining forces voices - during these #16days of activism and beyond. Women and girls must be made safe, and we must #EndViolence, now. Comfort Lamptey H.E. Jesper Kamp Siddharth Chatterjee Segun Awosanya Kingsley Moghalu and our own dear Wellbeing Foundation Africa Vice President Dr Alero Roberts Thank you. We are for others, who we are for ourselves. #16days #WBFA16days [embed]https://youtu.be/O1bb09DeATw[/embed]
FROM October 21st, 2020
Our nation’s young citizens were shot in cold blood as many of them sat on the ground singing our national anthem. They were shot by their own army, by soldiers whose job it is to protect them. And they were shot in the complete absence of members of Nigeria’s Police Force, whose job it likewise is to protect the lives and property of civilians, and who have sadly proven themselves to be under-trained, under-equipped and thus over-strained in times of crisis, incapable and unwilling to exercise the standard stewardship of crowd control.It is no secret that the peaceful protests concern the glaring impunity and militarization of the Nigeria Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad’s brutality towards young Nigerians which had reached the fever pitch of a public safety emergency, culminating in widespread reports of intimidation, harassment and extrajudicial killings – and that young people had organically risen, together, yet leaderless, to peacefully oppose this constant threat to their normal lives. In the last 24 hours, these protests were visibly disrupted in several cities by armed thugs. While the latter appeared to have the backing of the organs of state, in some instances they even killed innocent policemen. Last night, the Nigerian Army came out of its expansive barracks to ‘control’ a group of protesters on the Lekki Bridge Toll Gate, linking two of Lagos’s most exclusive residential communities. The young people had gathered peacefully behind a barrier as can be seen from all manner of media footage. The army fired live rounds not into the air but into the crowd, at close range, killing several and injuring an indeterminate number – in a flagrant contravention of the protocols of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Moreover, in so doing the commanding officer ignored the human rights of freedom of speech and assembly, and the right to protest peacefully, despite Nigeria being a signatory to the ICCPR.
My ears have rung with the mournful blare of howling sirens ever since, as ambulances contributed by private hospitals made their way, with difficulty through the curfews and against the odds, to the scene of bloodshed and death, to try to provide care, for the injured, and the murdered dying.Behind every statistic of inhumanity and injustice is a story, and behind each human being and young citizen is a family. The Nigerian flag, standing for peace, progress and unity, has been indelibly stained with the blood of our young citizens, who themselves were protesting against the SARS’s notorious record of thousands of incidents of rape, torture, un-anaesthetised testicular castrations, and extra-judicial killings, not to mention wanton acts of theft – the very crime it was established to curb. As a mother and grandmother, and I know I am not alone, I fully understand the determination of the youth movement advocating peacefully to #EndSARS and #ReformPoliceNG in Nigeria. At the same time, as a patriot, I am deeply concerned by the disruptions to the nation's safety, peace and productivity.
To build a nation, youth empowerment and youth development should be supported as a process where young people are encouraged to take charge of their lives. They should be supported as they address their situation, transform their consciousness through their own beliefs, values, and attitudes, and take action in order to improve their lives. Youth empowerment is a gateway to much needed inter-generational equity, civic engagement and democracy building.
All they had were their voices, hopes, aspirations and patriotism. If their words were swords, then we know how frightening words must be for the current administration. How can an invitation to sit down at a table for proposed dialogue be so frightening as to be simultaneously accompanied by fatal aggression and bloodshed? Who called our army out to kill, maim and injure our nation’s youth – all of whom eagerly and enthusiastically give a year of their efforts and energies to our mandatory National Youth Service Corps.
It is a travesty, and a crime, that young Nigerians should be shot in cold blood simply because they empowered themselves to develop and declare five wishes to live, work and prosper with respect and rights, as occurred on 20th October, 2020. Silence is not an acceptable answer amidst the public calls for dialogue, and Nigeria must hold itself to account.
I urge Nigerian officials and the Nigerian military, to immediately cease the violent and in part fatal crackdown on peaceful protesters in Nigeria. I urge the Nigerian Police to redouble its discipline to safely secure lives and property. My heart is broken along with all those who have lost a loved one in the violence. I ask the world and the diplomatic community to stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and an end to injustice and corruption in our democracy.I thank the churches and religious leaders, who threw open their parish doors to offer our nation’s young citizens refuge and have sought to encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society. It is time to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a just, inclusive, peaceful and united Nigeria. I thank the hospitals that have worked tirelessly and free of charge to do what they could to treat the gunshot wounds many young people had. It was an act of profound solidarity at a time when our nation’s officials abandoned our young. For the blood of Nigeria’s young citizens that has been spilled, for daring to raise their voices to peacefully demand a better future of inter-generational equity and accountability for all, we must do our utmost to ensure that their blood was not shed in vain. Our nation just celebrated 60 years of independence, autonomy, agency and governance. We remain in measured hope as we pray that our young citizens continue to surpass us in their achievements, and we will not forget.
FROM October 15th, 2020
FROM October 12th, 2020
The anguished scenes coming from our beloved nation Nigeria, of peaceful young protesters being forcefully dispersed, arrested and even injured and killed, are cause for sobering concern, even as many have noted the announcement that the SARS is to be immediately disbanded. The scenes speak to the state of the nation's wellbeing, and what affects one citizen, affects us all. The Economic and Social Research Council, which supports police reform in Nigeria, has assessed that between 2015 and 2019, over 40,000 lives were lost to violent crime, civil unrest and banditry, over 1,000 police officers died or were missing in the line of duty, over N600 billion Naira is estimated to have been lost to violent unrest and crime, while thousands of complaints have been filed to and by the police. Among those is a complaint regarding the molestation of a group of 70 women alleged to be sex-workers in Abuja in 2018 and 2019. That these women were treated by the authorities as less than human is at once a grave offense to their dignity and at the same time, an all-too-common occurrence. Our commitments and endorsement of United Nations Resolution 1325 specifically call for a reduction on violence against the female gender particularly because it is ultimately women and girls who bear the brunt in conflict. That our police system so blatantly flies in the face of internationally recognised orders that promote the healthy development of a country is antithetical to its purpose and existentially damaging to our nation's progress. It is poignant that yesterday was International Day of the Girl, and it was notable that I saw images of steadfast female activist Aisha Yesufu insist on social justice, and so many other young women rising to provide representation and relief. I see hope and practical expressions of loyalty to our nation's ideals in our women and youth. Our young citizens have made five requests of our nation's leaders:
FROM October 11th, 2020
FROM October 5th, 2020
This weekend, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa's MamaCare Antenatal & Postnatal Education Program's Whatsapp Maternity Support had the honour to be featured in British Vogue Magazine's Forces For Change October Edition about their work reaching every last mile to care and counsel mums, babies, and their families. I am so proud of their embracing the promise of technology to democratize access to accurate information from conception and the cradle, to age. MamaCare’s WhatsApp world is far from your typical online talkfest. It’s a safe space for pregnant women and new mums in Nigeria to connect, commiserate, congratulate, and voice their honest concerns — including the stuff deemed uncomfortable or taboo — knowing they can count on getting a prompt, accurate response in return. Our midwives, sometimes referred to endearingly as “Mama” by their group members, field questions about everything from breast feeding and nutrition to pregnancy sex and postpartum spotting. By harnessing the power of digital communication I believe that MamaCare will amplify its impact. What’s currently reaching 8,000 mothers a month, can soon evolve into well over 200,000. And with about seven million babies born in Nigeria each year and our goal of providing every single one of them and their families with a safe delivery and quality care, the new WBFA chatbot will be a major step in fast-tracking that ambition. Our tech is going to underpin our frontline. We want to be able to deliver lessons, immunisation reminders, nutrition advice, all by WhatsApp. If something as obtainable as WhatsApp has the capacity to improve medical outcomes for Nigeria’s most disadvantaged women through the diffusion of reliable information, then the world might not be as far from widespread healthcare reform as we once thought. As the developers of a wide range of home and health facilities based health records, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa believes that the role of data collation and analysis is crucial to the evolution of egalitarian healthcare systems. When we’re at a crossroads and we’re not sure what to do, data, if it’s openly and freely available, can lead us forward, hovwever we can’t access data if we’re not accessing the promise and realities of technology. I’m hoping that the WBFA’s use of technology will add this extra layer to all of our programming, and democratise it. Read more about my Forces For Change interview: WhatsApp Is The Key To Democratising Global Healthcare>>
FROM October 1st, 2020
During my childhood in the 1960's, I remember singing our Independence Anthem confidently in the affirmation that though our tribes and tongues may differ, we stand in brotherhood, proud to serve our sovereign motherland. Our flag is a symbol that truth and justice should reign, and our collective dream of being able to hand on to our children, a banner without stain, as we prayed to the Lord of all creation to grant our request to help us build a nation where no man would be oppressed, and so with peace and unity, Nigeria would be blessed. Nigeria is 60 today, and we have much to celebrate: our indomitable spirit, our endurance, fortitude and resilience - and our hard earned unity. We have an unquenching optimism for progress, and I know that my motherland has come a long way from Independence Day on 1st October 1960 and the vision of our founding fathers till today. Reflecting on our nascent years I can declare that Nigeria was indeed blessed, albeit simply, with abundant natural resources to grow a healthy population and prosperous future for all. At the same time, agitation for equitable management of our abundant natural resources, and the resulting humanitarian crisis directed our first experiences of multilateralism. International donor agencies arrived to assist the suffering and displaced victims of our civil war, as the nation strove to heal its wounds. The multilateral agencies remain with us today, implementing key services towards the sustainable development goals, working alongside national and frontline organisations. In those early formative years, lacking encounters with the basic day-to-day development challenges that shape creative public policy, our youthful nation paid little intentional and deliberate attention to the status of women and girls. We were so busy building our national unity, which at times was imperiled, that it didn’t occur to us to be intentional in our support for young women and girls to rise, even though culturally we have always revered and respected matriarchs and motherhood. This dichotomy has contributed to shaping some of the most dire realities of not meeting the needs of our women and girls that we as a nation face and experience today, where despite 50% of the electorate being women, the male gender occupies a disproportionate amount of cross-sectoral leadership positions.
The problems we face as a nation are a manifestation of the way in which we built our country, but today, at 60, and surely matured, we have an opportunity to catalyse an inclusive and cohesive course correction. We are centred on reiterating the national call to arise and serve our fatherland with love, strength and faith. We must reiterate that the labour of our heroes’ past shall never be in vain, and to serve our peoples with heart and might: one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity - to reach every last mile.
Right now, Nigeria’s Covid-19 deaths are comparatively low, and our nation’s endurance is high and strong; to me, possibly the product of a fortuitous resilience shaped by our long epidemiological history. However it is clear that the race to combat, contain and control Covid-19 is a marathon and not a sprint. According to The Economist’s Covid Collective Report, states like Nigeria are at risk of being “disproportionately affected because they have the least resources and infrastructure to grapple with the pandemic’s dire health and economic repercussions.” While richer countries are able to do more testing and prepare economic safeguards and recovery, Nigeria has recorded fewer tests per thousand people and has fewer resources to plan recovery. Examples of collaboration among scientists, however, show that models for better cooperation are possible, and indeed a timely focus on home-grown research and development from Nigeria may yet have much to teach the world. Stronger frameworks and mechanisms for international cooperation are required to mitigate the adverse effects on lives and livelihoods globally, and in fragile settings in particular. The fact that 172 countries globally are engaged in discussions to participate in COVAX – a Covid-19 vaccine global access facility – demonstrates just how powerful global cooperation can be in finding collective solutions to collective problems. On our 60th celebration of independence, we reaffirm our patriotic call to direct our noble cause: that our leaders are guided right, our youth are helped to know the truth, grow in love and honesty, living just and true, attain great and lofty heights, to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign, a pledge to the progress of our nation. But we cannot deny that Covid-19 has laid bare fissures in the multilateral system with far-reaching implications. From climate change to economic recessions, geopolitical tensions to AI disruption, truly global challenges are only going to become more frequent in our increasingly-interdependent world. Every country is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain thus we know that the gaps in domestic and international safety nets are not just a threat to the world’s vulnerable populations but also to the functioning of the global economy and society as a whole. As we celebrate the transformative power of patriotism, we must remember that no nation thrives entirely alone, and should work towards reviving multilateralism’s promise to ‘leave no one behind’ with particular focus on the effect of the pandemic on our most vulnerable women and girls. With the pandemic upending the world’s structural norms, Nigeria has an opportunity to come out of this dark time with a new energy based on the evidence of what works—and what does not work— to achieve our goals sustainably and for all. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, each and every one of us as individuals, along with our national governments, multilateral actors and humanitarian leaders must heed Covid-19’s wake-up call and unite to give multilateralism the “teeth” it needs to reform, replenish and strengthen national and global resilience both now and when the next crisis emerges, to ensure that our beloved nation Nigeria, and our people will survive, transform and thrive.
FROM September 26th, 2020
FROM September 18th, 2020
FROM September 15th, 2020
I am deeply concerned by the recent findings that Nigeria has overtaken India as the world capital for under-five deaths, according to the UNICEF report 'Levels and Trends in Child Mortality,’ particularly as we had previously seen significant improvements in Nigeria between 1990 and 2015. This distressing news comes just as we congregate virtually this year for the United Nations General Assembly. The report compiles data spanning three decades from 1990 to 2019, and it reveals that 49% of all under-five deaths in 2019 occurred in just five countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia. It finds that Nigeria and India alone account for almost a third of the deaths, and what is evermore worrying is that it is clear that there is a strong potential of a continued mortality crisis in 2020 with the additional strain of the coronavirus pandemic.
FROM September 11th, 2020
This week, my Wellbeing Foundation Africa's partners at Amref Health Africa led an excellent session - "A Health Accountability Framework, Holding Governments Accountable for their Health Commitments” . I warmly welcomed the discussion of the importance of supporting strong accountability frameworks, such as the Right to Health Index, that can hold governments to account on their health commitments. The Right To Health Index is grounded in the recognition that health accountability needs to move away from using general statistics and focus instead on identifying specific indicators for use in human rights. In doing so, accountability frameworks can facilitate the realization of health as a human right and universal health coverage for all. Health as a human right has always been central to The Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s work, particularly the infusion of poverty alleviation, rights and gender-based programming into the WBFA's Alaafia Universal Health Coverage Scheme Fund in partnership with the PharmAccess Foundation and Hygeia Community Health Plan. The Fund, supported the Kwara State Health Insurance Scheme established since 2007 by advocating for the 2012 and 2017 enabling state health insurance legislation, and by directly providing yearly capacitation fees for 5000 pregnant and newly delivered women, as well as adolescents, people living with HIV/AIDS, and elderly beneficiaries annually, within it's over 100,000 enrollees from 2015 onwards. Certainly, this availability of quality affordable care has contributed in no small measure to Kwara State maintaining its status as the state with the lowest maternal and under-5 mortality in Nigeria, at a time when the nation has been confronted with the unfortunate fact of having overtaken India as having the highest and worst preventable deaths of mothers and their young children globally - underscoring the importance of sustaining focused efforts across all 36 states of the federation to arrest this devastating trend of neglect. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVfErQTKH6Y&feature=youtu.be H.E. Senator Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, MBBS, CON, 13th President of the Senate and Chair, 8th Session National Assembly, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Former Kwara State Governor and Chair, Nigeria Governors Forum, at the Scale Up Ceremony of Kwara Community Health Insurance Scheme, Afon, Kwara State, 2009 I was also delighted to learn this week that the health insurance scheme has been recently re-launched with a target of 10,000 more mandatory enrollees. I heartily commend the PharmAccess Foundation and other partners for their focused tenacity in ensuring that the exemplary health insurance-driven universal health coverage model that all partners worked so hard to create and innovate, driven by the mutual vision of H.E Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and the late acclaimed global health expert and medical research scientist Joep Lange to render affordable quality health care for all will continue to support and benefit many more people into the future. [caption id="attachment_1199" align="aligncenter" width="603"] Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Hygeia Community Health Plan, Pharmaccess Foundation, World Bank Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Health at Alaafia Universal Health Care Scheme Fund Conclusion Breakfast Meeting, Abuja, Nigeria, January 2017[/caption]
FROM September 2nd, 2020
FROM August 25th, 2020
FROM August 11th, 2020
FROM July 22nd, 2020
I am overjoyed to receive a photo and update from a Wellbeing Africa Foundation mum today, and I must share the story.In 2017, Mrs O was pregnant with triplets, and had been a student of my #Mamacare360 program. She needed, but couldn't afford a Caesarean, and the hospital just kept her waiting. The hospital was ready to abandon them. I have always advocated for socio-economic birth preparedness within universal health coverage, but birth waits for no-one, so I dashed there to help immediately. That's because a sound anti-poverty strategy should not only aim to increase incomes, but also provide the poor with a variety of assets — personal, social, political and environmental to help them overcome the myriad of challenging circumstances. Sometimes being there for the right person, with the right help, at the right place, can change a life (or in this case, three more lives) way beyond the original aim of poverty alleviation. Here is a photo of the absolutely beautiful triplets today: they have grown so big and strong, and it has made a sunny day today even brighter. [caption id="attachment_1178" align="alignnone" width="300"] The triplets, 2020[/caption]
FROM July 21st, 2020
A few weeks ago, I read an absolutely harrowing story of abuse in Akwuke, near Enugu City, Nigeria, and it has been on my mind ever since. I am consumed by the fact that its graphic nature and intimate impact were entirely preventable, if only the right systems were in place.
Early in June, a wife and mother of two young boys—we will call her Mrs. K—asked her husband for money to prepare food for the family. He had a history of violence, and he lashed out about the inquiry: when she proceeded to make pap for her 3-month-old baby, he doused her breasts in boiling water. She reacted in the throes of excruciating pain, and also unable to breastfeed her baby. The Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL) posted the story on Twitter, including graphic photos that I am choosing not to continue to publicise. WACOL has confirmed that the husband is now in police custody, but the psychological, emotional and physical damage to Mrs. K and her children has been done, and it is on us to use this case as a calling to rethink how we are handling the scourge of domestic violence in Nigeria.
The story is the horrific climax of a pattern that we know to be true when it comes to domestic violence: notable triggering factors for the husband’s actions in this case are concerns about money, food, and the fact that Mrs. K was exercising her personal autonomy—through breastfeeding the baby. We know firstly that domestic violence is rising due to pressures about money amidst the pandemic; secondly, research also shows that male partners who are inclined to violence increase aggression during pregnancy and after birth, and thirdly, we know that jealousy (in this case, about feeding the baby) can be a trigger for men inclined to violence.
While the global community is aware of these factors, limited access to reporting pathways means local organisations weren’t able to shield Mrs. K before the abuse was so great that it required extreme intervention. Her case makes evident that the reporting of incidents of intimate nature, such as sexual assault and domestic violence, necessitates the transfer of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) from police stations to hospitals.
The Nigerian police force is culturally hyper-masculine and male-dominated, and Nigerians are 20 times more likely to be killed by the police than by terrorists. It is obvious that an aggressive and masculine environment in a conservative cultural setting is not a safe space for vulnerable women to share intimate stories about private parts of their body. In fact, a police station in Nigeria could be the worst place I could think of for a woman to go to seek relief. That’s why I’ve begun reaching out to call for a timely policy shift, nationally, to shift SARCs to hospitals: the hospitals would assume locus as expert witnesses, and bear the formal responsibility for reporting and advising the police on sexual and domestic violence cases. In turn, the idea is that injured women, or women in danger would feel more comfortable seeking treatment about intimate issues than in a police station. They would be treated for their ailments, and hospital staff would assume the responsibility for translating actionable items to the police. Like any crime, the prospect of swift justice, would also serve as a deterrent, and thus a very timely tool in the strategy to effect preventive social behavioural change.
This call to action is about ensuring we have the right systems in place to safeguard and ultimately empower vulnerable women with the public resources we have available. It is said that sexual and gender based violence is within the lived experience of almost half of our women and girls; equipping health personnel with specialist SGBV SARC and mental health training is both prerequisite, and an imperative.
At the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, we have long offered women attending our health facility based Mamacare antenatal and postnatal sessions a safe space, and a curriculum to discuss concerns, and if needed, report their worries. Nigeria’s updated National Gender Policy should take a whole-family, socio-economic and mental health approach to tackling the scourge of domestic violence; and one way we can start is by ensuring the safe haven of refuge, of a kind of solace: a comfortable environment for vulnerable women to give forensic evidence, find relief, and heal. We must do it for Mrs. K.
FROM July 14th, 2020
I thoroughly enjoyed kick-starting the new week by participating at the UN High-level Political Forum side event entitled, "From Page to Action: Accountability for the Furthest Left behind in COVID-19 & Beyond.” The conversation was strong, timely and direct, as well as being a fantastic way to launch the 2020 Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman Every Child. Co-hosted by the Governments of Japan, South Africa, and Georgia and co-organized by the Every Woman Every Child Secretariat, the Independent Accountability Panel (IAP), International Health Partnership for UHC 2030 (UHC2030), and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), I appreciated the opportunity of knowledge sharing to deepen the efforts and engagement of my organisations, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, and Wellbeing For Women Youth Voices towards promoting institutional accountability at national, regional and global policy tiers. As we herald the new commitments targeted at mitigating the disruptions of the Sars-Cov2 pandemic in expectation of focused investments, we are once again reminded that the initiation, solution and fiscal appropriations to drive the delivery and accountability of truly accessible health for all must be embraced and fall within the remits of local and national parliaments. Today, and every day, I particularly commend the WHO Partnership for Maternal Newborn And Child Health PMNCH's ongoing strong collaboration with the International Parliamentary Union IPU, as signalled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union's historic first resolution towards Universal Health Coverage in 2019, substantiating global approaches to recordkeeping. I was particularly enthused by contributions from a number of high-level speakers and leading voices for the delivery of Universal Health Coverage, namely, H.E. Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa; President of South Africa; Chairperson of the African Union, Mr. Shinichi Kitaoka; President, Japan International Cooperation Agency JICA, Ms. Joy Phumaphi, Co-Chair, Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman Every Child, Mr. Elhadj As Sy; Chair of the Board, Kofi Annan Foundation, Ms. Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Dr. Khuất Thị Hải Oanh; Civil Society Engagement Mechanism, UHC2030, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA, H.E. Mr. Kaha Imnadze; Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN, H.E. Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés; Member, UHC Movement Political Advisory Panel, UHC2030, Ms. Evalin Karijo; Project Director, Youth in Action, Amref Health Africa, Mr. Peter MacDougall, Assistant Deputy Minister of Global Issues and Development, Global Affairs Canada, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Director-General, WHO; Chair, H6 Partnership, Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister, New Zealand; Board Chair, PMNCH, and of course, Ms. Gillian Tett; Chair of the Editorial Board & Editor-at-Large (US), The Financial Times (Moderator), alongside so many EWEC partners and frontline organisations. But as the COVID-19 pandemic’s grip on the world shows no immediate signs of loosening, organisations must therefore acclimatise effectively, by integrating the dual-mindset towards technology, in equipping their workforces and ensuring that the dissemination of information – particularly pertaining to health - remains both accurate and accessible. By making this part of an ongoing global transition a priority, we will see to it that society’s most vulnerable individuals are able to continue accessing the information and services which remain a key component in their livelihood. As Nigeria, seeks to mitigate the regrettable and inexcusable reputational damage that recent appalling breaches in cybersecurity have caused, we must also underscore the vital role that technologically supported security platforms play in enabling for remote operations and a continued key health services to be delivered when implemented effectively. Invoking cybersecurity measures have been and continue to constitute a key component in ensuring that accurate health information is circulated worldwide, particularly during this Covid-19 pandemic. We must therefore support all initiatives and efforts in the direction of this construct remaining a top global priority.
FROM July 6th, 2020
For many years, the welcomed priority, purpose and daily-sensitised goal for Women and Girls, Families and Communities - nationally and across our continent as a whole - has been to solidly create, inform, empower and manifest a true demonstration of equality, access and social responsibility regarding their health, their education and the equitable opportunities afforded to assure and improve basic wellbeing, from birth to age. Through the continued collaborative efforts of our nation’s healthcare professionals, researchers, thought-leaders, community volunteers and the service users themselves, Nigeria had long subscribed to the notion of investing in Universal Basic Education. However, the first time that citizens experienced the concrete benefit of an intentional basic or primary public health assistance was in 2018, when Nigeria’s 8th National Assembly appropriated the Basic Health Care Provision Fund – a pinnacle moment in the redemption of the 2001 Abuja Declaration towards achieving Universal Health Coverage. Today, that resounding national applause remains of strong resonance to the Joint Civil Society Organisations Primary Healthcare Revitalisation Support Group to the Eighth National Assembly, which I had chaired. With that being said, a real sense of recurring readiness and receptiveness to campaigns, cultural change and the communication surrounding health and wellbeing as a whole remains palpably evident, statistically proven and collectively celebrated by many – both nationally, and worldwide, and is categorised amongst what still remains a series of promising results acquired through WBFA’s advocacy and partnership efforts with policy-makers and parliamentarians worldwide. In addition, and perhaps more pertinently given the progression of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, my morale embodies the significance and importance of global partnership interventions such as that of the Global Financing Facility and the Global Citizen Fund. Their commitment to amplifying the importance of collective efforts in acquiring globally accessible health tools and resources during the pandemic, brings us all one step closer to the concept of continuity of services becoming a very possible reality. As, the Global Financing Facility announced its predictions last week, it conveyed a new set of commitments aimed at mitigating the disruption of services to a number of the countries and global communities most in need. GFF forecasts a possible 18% increase in child mortality, and a 9% increase in maternal mortality across Nigeria over the next year as a direct result of essential health services becoming fragmented during this COVID-19 pandemic. We had only recently learnt the surprising news that Nigeria's 9th National Assembly had predicted a reduction in the value of the primary healthcare and basic education budgets, which as unaddressed to date – reflect as cuts. However, as 30th June marked the International Day of Parliamentarianism, I was also caused to reflect upon the OECD’s interpretations of the role of parliaments during the COVID-19 crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is posing threats not only to human health and life, but also to people’s socio-economic well-being and countries’ economic growth. According to the OECD, the global economy is currently suffering its deepest recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s. One of the many visible issues of the current pandemic is the rampant unemployment and loss of income. As well as the increase in poverty, it could impede people from accessing basic services due to unaffordability and inaccessibility. It is estimated that 2.9-5.2 million people could lose their jobs in Indonesia as a result of this global health crisis. Clearly the pandemic is heightening inequality and inequity among citizens as well as within the countries themselves. Yet, presently, the role of parliament is more relevant today than it has been ever before. Parliaments can propose and adopt necessary laws to assist their respective governments in intercepting and tackling COVID-19 and its adverse impacts. Further, parliaments can oversee the expenditure of the public funds related to COVID-19. It is crucial to ensure that the funds are allocated appropriately, and that all individuals receive fair distribution of strategically proposed COVID-19 containment measures. In responding to the COVID-19 crisis, parliaments in Nigeria, and around the world have also established designated Task Forces for COVID-19, aiming to provide assistance and support in the form of medical equipment and personal protective equipment to hospitals and community health centres, in a globally observed and commended response. Every state has different capacities and resources to counter the challenges, whether it is providing and maintaining optimal and accessible healthcare, upholding a functioning and thriving society or managing the state of the global economic. Therefore, international co-operation is imperative, in order to ensure that states - especially within low- to middle-income countries, are able to thrive in this moment of crisis, and eliminate their obstacles in tackling COVID-19. Not surprisingly, three weeks ago, I had joined a high-level discussion on how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic perpetuates the pressing need to implement Universal Health Care. In welcoming the Africa Leads UHC One By One 2030 Report, and in the new Unite For Action global commitments, I fully agreed that primary health care must cover the breadth of the journey from hospital to hut in communities, and improve the social determinants of all those living and working therein. We should not wait to improve the situation until, God forbid, the next crisis occurs. We have to ensure that our nations’ socio-economic development would not leave anyone behind, as envisaged by the 2030 Agenda. In that regard, every decision, law and regulation made must also be based on principles of equality, participation, non-discrimination, accountability and transparency. I have urged all African Leaders to reinforce and reconfigure their commitments to the 2001 Abuja Declarations in order to exceed the minimum pledged 15% of respective Consolidated Revenue Funds, if we are indeed to fulfil our mantra’s of Africa Rising – to match these global commitments with clear manifestation of a sense and purpose, of evidenced intention, to put our people first, justifying continued global partnerships and multi-lateral assistance. As we face the prospect of reinstating routine primary health and education services that were so destructively interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that Africa needs to factor in the replenishment and reinforcement of investments in both primary health care, and primary education. In doing so, they will build resilience to emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position than before. We must ensure that our weakest frontline services can deliver a healthier, better and stronger educated future for all. As we herald the new commitments targeted at mitigating the disruptions of the Sars-Cov2 pandemic, in expectation of focused investments we are reminded then, that the initiation, solution and budgetary injection must primarily derive from the pots that sit within local parliaments, while recalling that in fact, in 2019, the Inter-Parliamentary Union did actively play its part in passing its historic first resolution towards universal health coverage, substantiating global approaches to recordkeeping. Parliaments themselves should also intensify this co-operation and share their best practices, experiences and challenges in dealing with the COVID-19. International organisations such as the OECD and its Global Parliamentary Network have a pivotal role to play during these unprecedented times. They help to facilitate pertinent policy dialogues on important socio-economic matters and provide us with advice and recommendations, so that parliaments can use them as guidelines to improve the situation and/or propose to its governments. To use the example of the Indonesian Parliament view that the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, I restate the fact that the SDGs should be the measure for parliaments to prevent trade-offs in this moment of crisis, for example, between the economy and health, in any laws or programmes. It is also important to emphasise that the entire Indonesian House of Representatives, including those in the commissions, are working to support the implementation and achievement of the SDGs, supporting resolutions relevant to SDGs and that are in the public interest. This is also the time for us as Nigerians, and as Africans, to open our eyes and realise the importance of improving individuals' social and economic rights – especially the poor and vulnerable – such as clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) and economic growth tied to decent work (SDG 8). It is clear that fighting COVID-19 requires people to have clean water and sanitation – and not everyone has access to it. Much of our nation’s willingness to learn, embrace and engage with the plethora of ongoing initiatives that have so positively contributed to the building and delivery of timely, appropriate and affordable care concepts and pathways in Nigeria today, is arguably attributable to the overarching and consistent primary theme of ‘accessibility’ these tremendous efforts were primarily built upon. A fearlessly competent, responsible and promising generation have successfully ensured that accessibility remains a true ethos and the pertinent undercurrent when shaping and delivering an intentional and undeniably imperative standard of care. Sadly, their efforts have now rather tragically arrived at a potential point of trepidation. These findings should fill every stakeholder with encouraging zeal, renewed passion and an inexplicable sense of determination to work towards establishing tangible, long-term solutions for this pandemic and beyond. We must continue forward – and ensure that a path towards the sustainable replenishment of much needed resources is assured. To date, the responses and levels of engagement from members of society coupled with repeated statistical confirmations of increased success following the introduction of a number of health and wellbeing initiatives, further echoes my sentiments and of many others. Now more than ever before, the nation requires a firm continuation of a well-functioning, culturally and economically appropriate primary health and basic education system – one which must remain accessible to all and for all, in all its entirety. With this being said then, the most poignant way of ensuring that this can and should be made possible, is to maintain the level of financial input that 9th NASS initially committed to and maintained in the lead up to this unfortunate outcome. In light of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, and while duly and empathetically acknowledging the economical setbacks that such a global pandemic has birthed, it is with the greatest of respect, care, honour, but also pride for all that we as a nation have achieved, that I make mention of this decision being a very important one. From our global counterparts and stakeholders, right through to a growing community of invested and daily-committed healthcare and education facilitators here in our nation of Nigeria, the transitions and great strides made and being reflected by way of national and international policy, practice and (societal) position are going from strength to strength. Many of you have responsibly embarked on a lifelong journey which has continuously proven to be of great societal, medical and generational benefit. This is particularly evident statistically. With health, as with education, the access to upholding and maintaining it, and human engagement really do go hand in hand: the intentional attitude and efforts our nation employs daily in a bid to truly care, educate and continue advocating for a significantly positive quality of life for all, is in actual fact, entirely dependent on the resources being made available to professionals and those within their care. Access to affordable healthcare and education then, should be a precise and continuous embodiment of the primary intention behind the service and its delivery. I believe that the truest way in which we can continue to facilitate, impact and inform attitudes and approaches to healthcare and education in our nation, in a way that evidently works well, is to truly uphold our level of (physical and financial) input. Only then, can we truly make it holistically accessible. Last week, I signed my name to join the #GlobalGoalUnite call for urgent investments and actions. Join me, by signing the campaign here, too: www.globalcitizen.org
FROM June 20th, 2020
There are more displaced peoples in Nigeria—over two million—than the populations of Ilorin, Abuja and even Benin City. The scale of this situation in Nigeria is a tragedy for our people and our economy. At home in Nigeria, the conditions being faced by our population of concern are an increased cause for alarm and focused action within our COVID-19 response strategies – Nigeria is facing immense humanitarian and protection challenges due to the ongoing insurgency in the North East. The conflict has caused grave human rights violations, impacting particularly on the most vulnerable civilians. According to the UNHCR, as of May 2020, there are 2,046,604 internally displaced persons in the Northeast region, with 90% of the displacements in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. Outside of the Northeast an estimated 578,119 people are displaced due to banditry and farmer-herders conflict. There are 61,361 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of April 2020, with 60% located in Cross Rivers, 21% in Taraba, 12% in Benue and 6% registered in Lagos whom are classified as urban refugees and asylum seekers. There are a further 292,513 Nigerian Refugees in our neighbouring countries of Niger (55%), Cameroon (40%), and Chad (5%). View the map>> In summary, as of May this year, the total number of people attributed to Nigeria’s existing population of concern stood at 2,107,965. More than 61,000 were registered as refugees and asylum seekers, and the significant remainder originating from neighbouring nations were identified as internally displaced persons (IDP). The spectrum of challenges that refugees and displaced persons face is very broad: they may be traumatised, having lost homes, livelihoods and identities. However, when the host communities have strong systems in place, the suffering is mitigated, and the road to recovery can begin. I have always felt that refugees should have health rights guaranteed in any host location, and health-enhanced certifiable identities. The United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey support the health of refugees effectively, with the help of the World Health Organisation, which works closely with government health departments to provide culturally and linguistically sensitive health services to refugees. That’s why in February I was pleased to attend the launch of the Lancet Migration, a collaboration of researchers in migration and health who are building evidence to drive policy change in this area. I’ve been involved with helping to provide aid to many refugee camps in Northern Nigeria, and I’ve come to the understanding that ensuring health care should be standard in supporting the dignity of displaced persona. On World Refugee Day today, I commit to working with Lancet Migration, and call for attention on the rights of refugees in relation to accessibility to health care.
FROM June 1st, 2020
This year marked the start of the United Nations' Decade of Delivery, where we were promised that things would change for the empowerment of women and girls. Armed with research to prove how much better off our world would be with the rights of women and girls realised, we in the global advocacy community declared that it is well past time to start living in a gender equal reality.
FROM May 29th, 2020
The recent stories about violent police killings of African Americans are pulling at my heartstrings. My expertise is in child and maternal health and wellbeing in Africa, and police brutality in the United States may seem like it is 6,218 miles (the distance from Lagos to Minneapolis) away from my wheelhouse. But that would be denying the reality that we Africans are a global community united by the colour of our skin and ancestries that have been altered by systems of oppression that have spanned and scrambled our societies for generations, and which we have, collectively and individually, climbed to overcome.
FROM May 26th, 2020
As we mark Africa Day, I am encouraged by the milestones we have achieved, standing together as one united Africa, towards providing equity in health access since the Alma Ata declaration of 1978. Personally, a high point for Nigeria was in 2018 when Nigeria's National Assembly, chaired by my husband H.E. Dr Bukola Saraki MBBS, CON, helped establish the Basic Health Care Provision Fund. It was a key and catalytic step towards achieving Universal Health Coverage for our citizens. As the coronavirus pandemic puts health systems to unprecedented tests, I call on our African leaders, of governments, of policies, and of innovative actions, to rise to the challenge of the #AfricaWeWant. We must accelerate investments and actions to meet the health needs of our citizens by strengthening primary health care services with efficient diagnostics, referrals and treatment. Let's walk the talk for primary health care and wellbeing. As we stand together in rallying the right resources to combat COVID-19, I also call for the reinforcement and replenishment of the 2001 Abuja Declaration—a pledge made by the African Union, standing as one, promising to increase their health budget to at least 15% of the state's annual budget. The World Health Organisation reported in 2010 that only one African country had reached that target. Today in 2020, we must replenish and reinforce those promises to ensure that every citizen can access an efficient system of quality health.
FROM May 20th, 2020
During a normal year I would be traveling to the World Health Assembly this week, but this year I joined state leaders and world-renowned experts virtually from our homes, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the spirit is evident: global collaboration on the state of our world’s health has never in our lifetime been more necessary.
FROM May 8th, 2020
I am excited to announce that Wellbeing Foundation Africa is partnering with U.S.-based company Fortify to address iron deficiency: the major underlying cause of maternal deaths during childbirth in developing countries. I started working on improving iron deficiency in Nigeria in 2014 with a programme called Green Food Steps. I worked with Unilever’s biggest brand Knorr to educate women and daughters to practice new, nutritious cooking habits. But when I met the Fortify team to talk about a partnership last year, I was struck by how elegant yet practical a solution they have for iron deficiency anemia: they help add iron to ingredients that make up everyday meals—such as tomato paste. Tomato paste is already built into the food supply, it’s a big part of the meals every African eats; that’s why they’ve worked to produce 20 million sachets of iron-fortified tomato paste varieties in Nigeria monthly. Implementing more iron in our food staples is not just a compassionate move to improve maternal health: it’s economically beneficial, too. According to the World Health Organization, timely treatment of iron deficiency anemia can ultimately raise national productivity levels by as much as 20%. That’s why I’m so excited to engage First Ladies and women leaders—because of the impact they bring to women, families and communities in improving maternal health outcomes—but also policymakers across Africa to accelerate efforts to eradicate iron deficiency. Read more on Wellbeing Africa.
FROM May 4th, 2020
FROM April 28th, 2020
Together, we are facing a global health crisis. Each day, as the death toll due to COVID-19 rises, people in governments, institutions, hospitals, communities and households around the world are having to navigate unprecedented sacrifice and hardship – making decisions with profound effects on their lives and livelihoods. As a collective network of girls, women, advocates, and allies working in global development, we stand together to encourage global collaboration to combat COVID-19. Only by working together can we ensure that no one is left behind in our response to the pandemic. Our focus now must be on supporting vulnerable communities and the most vulnerable people within our communities – in the spirit of solidarity, but also for our own protection. This includes girls and women who are now at a higher risk of gender-based violence and rights abuses, and at-risk groups (including people who have disabilities or identify as LGBTQIA) who are being targeted or are unable to access routine services. At a time of ever-increasing social distancing, there has never been a more crucial need for community and selfless leadership. The World Health Organization’s continued focus on saving lives and supporting and protecting the most vulnerable of us will play a pivotal role in our recovery. Now more than ever, countries need to unite behind a strong WHO – sharing knowledge, strategy, technical resources and financial investment to defeat the global threat we all face. We must make no concessions for blame, politicisation or racism in developing an inclusive and effective solution to this crisis. Across the world, we see the power of community and shared resources, as individuals step forward to support each other. Our heroes – the predominantly-female health workforce, working day and night to serve our communities and unite us – have demonstrated that cooperation is to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. In such challenging times, it is crucial that we overcome any efforts to divide us. Join us by signing on
FROM April 15th, 2020
FROM April 15th, 2020
The world is hurting, and we need the WHO now more than ever before. Millions are suffering and misinformation is spreading, with fear and even racism impeding mechanisms for an effective response. Countries and communities are acting both together and apart. Right now, every community needs information based strictly in science and supported with the benefit of a global perspective. The world needs a well-functioning global organization designed to facilitate international coordination. We need the WHO, our standard-bearer in unprecedented times for an unprecedented virus. The pandemic is a stark reminder that humans are connected, and that what happens in one country can impact the everyday lives, social fabrics and economies of countries far away. Human connectivity holds power: the positive impact of our collective will to physically distance from one another alone shows what power we hold. Guided by the heart beat of world health—the WHO—together we have pulled resources, research, and we have made a global effort to benefit the health of all of us. We are grateful for those who have recovered due to the efforts of indefatigable health workers who have detected, tracked, traced and treated the affected, even as we have mourned the lives and livelihoods that we have lost. Together we must continue to marshal support to combat this virus. We hold the hope for better days ahead.
FROM March 25th, 2020
World Tuberculosis Day 2020 – It Is Crucial To Deepen TB Advocacy And Actions To Ensure Tuberculosis Does Not Become Totally Invisible During The COVID-19 Pandemic – Toyin Saraki, Founder, Wellbeing Foundation Africa I was recently following the research findings of Madhukar Pai, Canada Research Chair of Epidemiology and Global Health at McGill University, Montreal Canada, where he called for a damage control plan for tuberculosis during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. As the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world, the global health community working to fight TB have growing anxiety about what this pandemic will do to a much older infectious killer - tuberculosis (TB). We know from the Ebola experience that epidemics can disrupt even basic services such as routine immunization. No doubt, COVID-19 will adversely affect all routine health services everywhere. But TB services is might be one of the biggest casualties. Why? Even before COVID-19, TB had a notorious track record as a ‘Captain of the Men of Death’. TB kills 4000 people each day, and 1.5 million people each year. TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV/AIDS. An estimated 10 million people developed TB in 2018, and nearly half a million people developed drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). COVID-19 is a crisis of social solidarity and social investment. This applies to TB as well. It is crucial to deepen TB advocacy and actions to make sure TB does not become completely invisible during the COVID-19 pandemic. People are leaving no stone unturned to stop the coronavirus pandemic. If we show even half of this dedication towards ending TB, we can stop millions from dying from a preventable and curable disease. I stand in solidarity with the Stop TB community as we support people affected by COVID-19. This World TB Day we support the fight against the new pandemic, share our lessons, experiences and tools so that united we can defeat it. We want to remind global leaders the urgency to invest in better and more resilient health systems, today more than ever we realise the need to end endemics like TB or COVID-19. To fight COVID19, we can use the tools needed to End TB: infection control, artificial intelligence, x-rays, contact tracing, telemedicine and psycho-social support. Years of under-investment made tuberculosis and its drug resistant forms the biggest infectious disease killer with over 4000 deaths per day. We can’t afford to repeat these mistakes and be unprepared for pandemics like COVID19. Most TB survivors have gone through the isolation, fear, discrimination and stigma that we are facing with COVID 19. Let’s hear their voices and learn resilience from them. It’s Time To End TB. It’s time to recognize that people with #TB are vulnerable to COVID19, including prisoners, migrants, people living with #HIV, and those who are malnourished. Healthcare workers are at the centre of the fight against diseases such as tuberculosis or COVID-19 - While most of us are at home, social distancing, the health workers leave their houses and families to ensure that people with TB get diagnosed, treated and cured and also battle COVID-19. I appreciate and applaud their efforts as frontline health heroes. I join the Stop TB Partnership in calling on global leaders to join forces to protect people affected by TB and especially vulnerable populations from #COVID19. It’s time to ensure we #LeaveNoOneBehind #ItsTimeToEndTB
FROM February 9th, 2020
Along with the global health community, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa has taken note of the WHO declaration of a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus. WHO has identified 13 top priority countries (Algeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) which either have direct links or a high volume of travel to China. “To ensure rapid detection of the novel coronavirus, it is important to have laboratories which can test samples and WHO is supporting countries to improve their testing capacity. Since this is a new virus, there are currently only two referral laboratories in the African region which have the reagents needed to conduct such tests." “However, reagent kits are being shipped to more than 20 other countries in the region, so diagnostic capacity is expected to increase over the coming days. Active screening at airports has been established in a majority of these countries and while they will be WHO first areas of focus, the organization will support all countries in the region in their preparation efforts" "It is critical that countries step up their readiness and in particular put in place effective screening mechanisms at airports and other major points of entry to ensure that the first cases are detected quickly” The Wellbeing Foundation Africa commends and thanks the thousands of courageous frontline heroes, the frontline health professionals who are working around the clock in affected regions to treat the sick, save lives and bring this outbreak under control. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa continues to advocate and urge, particularly in Nigeria which is currently responding to a Lassa Fever outbreak in over 11 states, that investment in a skilled and sustainable, locally led frontline health workforce able to detect, report and respond to threats and deliver quality health services including water, sanitation and hygiene essentials for infection prevention and control, is crucial to building health systems resilient to outbreak.